Despite various reports – in publications such as The Sunday Telegraph, Sky and opinion pieces in national papers – the government has not confirmed that it will introduce a limit on international student numbers as pressure mounts to find a solution to the housing crisis in major cities.
The voice for Australia’s purpose-built student accommodation sector, the Student Accommodation Council, has already urged Canberra to work with industry to expand the housing supply in place of the suggested tax. The organisation referred to the proposal as a “short-term thought-bubble”.
Analysis by international education consulting and advisory company in Australia, The Lygon Group, has found that students are already reacting to the media reports.
In comments gathered through its TheSocialSource, TLG has raised concerns that rhetoric will have a negative impact on the social license for the sector, according to head of Student Insight and Strategy, Varsha Devi Balakrishnan.
The data suggests that prospective students have shared on social media that they’ve been advised by agents to hold off their applications whilst they wait for some clarity around the situation.
“Oh here we go again! Seem like they’re just going to send us packing now vs telling us overtly to go back like they did when COVID hit. Once again, we’re the problem guys! When will we learn?” one student said, while other asked where the analysis that led to this strange policy suggestion was.
“The call for a quota on international students is nonsensical: a tax that led to the equivalent fall in numbers, earns a lot of revenue. A quota earns zero revenue,” another commented.
“A levy or tax would pay for student housing is not a simple fix, we are not an endless pool of money. We too are struggling,” said another social media user.
“Australia is really confusing at the best of times. Didn’t they say they have a skills gap that they encouraged international students to fill and even offered up extended 485 visas for that very purpose?
“Yet now they blame us for the rental issues and are even considering jacking up our fees? So much for not seeing us as cash cows. We are aware that we are one of your top exports Australia. We don’t need you. You need us. Best start showing it.”
Balakrishnan noted that TLG analysis suggests a growing ‘us vs them’ rhetoric is becoming more prevalent as the rental crisis intensifies.
“There’s a heightened uncertainty amongst international students”
The proposal for levies, caps and increased fees “provides a source of ‘legitimacy’ for arguments that international students are in Australia as cash cows, undoing the work that has been done across the sector to highlight the multiple ways that international students contribute to Australian communities, classrooms and economies”, she said.
“There’s a heightened uncertainty amongst international students driven by speculative proposed solutions coupled with the anticipation of what the migration review would entail for recent graduates as well as incoming students who’ve chosen Australia as a student destination.
“Through TheSocialSource we’ve been tracking how students are also increasingly aware and carefully monitoring the visa refusal rates by country, with some wondering if it’s worth spending money on a visa that has a high chance of rejection or lengthy delays given the statistics.”