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News: Australia to Limit International Student Enrolments

Australia is set to introduce significant changes to its international education sector by capping the number of international student enrolments.

This cap is a key part of the recently released Draft International Education and Skills Strategic Framework. This framework outlines how the government and the education sector can collaborate to ensure that international education continues to benefit students, the economy, and communities.

More details of the cap will be released later this week, but here’s what we know so far.

Why the cap?

Australia’s education system attracts students from all over the world, and in April 2024, the number of international students reached a record high of over 700,000. This rapid growth has presented challenges in maintaining the high standards and reputation of Australian education.

According to Minister for Education Jason Clare, “The draft International Education and Skills Strategic Framework will lay the groundwork for an international education sector that is more sustainable and provides the highest quality education and student experience for all students.” 

To address these challenges, the government will introduce a cap on international student enrolments. By limiting the number of students, the aim is to ensure education providers maintain high standards of education and support. This also helps identify and address issues with providers who don’t meet required standards, protecting students from exploitation and ensuring you receive the quality education you deserve.

What’s changing?

To manage growth more effectively, the government is implementing several key changes. Under the new legislation, Federal Education Minister Jason Clare will be able to set maximum allocations for new international student enrolments, while similar caps will be set for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector by the skills and training minister. These caps will limit the number of international students that can be enrolled over a specific period.

The government will set enrolment limits at a provider level, including specific courses or locations, in consultation with individual universities. For VET providers, the government will consult with the sector to distribute enrolments. Factors such as the university’s supply of purpose-built student accommodation and the contribution of enrolments to meeting Australia’s skills needs, particularly in health and education, will be considered when setting the caps. Universities wanting to enrol more international students will need to establish additional purpose-built student accommodation for both international and domestic students.

Additionally, newly registered universities and colleges will need to prove a track record of quality course delivery for domestic students before accepting foreign enrolments. Higher education providers under investigation for serious regulatory breaches will be banned from recruiting international students.

Schools and postgraduate research enrolments will be exempt from these caps, and the government is also considering excluding short courses, non-packaged short English courses, and non-award courses.

While the new policies won’t be implemented until 1 January 2025, legislation will be introduced to parliament this week. 

What this means for you

Importantly, if you’re already enrolled, your spot is secure; these changes will only affect those applying for 2025 onwards. 

If you’re planning to study in Australia or are already here, the implementation of a cap aims to create a more organised and high-quality education system. While the new limits might seem restrictive, they are designed to improve your educational experience and provide a supportive environment for your studies in Australia.

Universities that invest in new student housing will be allowed to enrol more students, providing better accommodation options. The new regulations will also limit or stop providers with persistent quality issues from recruiting international students, ensuring you receive education from reputable institutions.

How has the sector responded?

The response to these changes has been mixed, with key voices in the education sector expressing some concerns. University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott emphasised that international students are essential to both the economy and university funding, warning that reducing student numbers could impact research and development, which is crucial for Australia’s growth.

The chief executive of the Group of Eight, Vicki Thomson, said the body strongly supported measures to improve quality and integrity in the international education sector, although “any mix of policy settings must be considered, and nuanced.”

Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, raised concerns about the feasibility of rapidly increasing student accommodation. He noted that international students make up only a small portion of the rental market, and expecting universities to quickly provide more housing is unrealistic.

Insider Guides will update you with the details as they become available, keeping you informed about how these changes might affect your study plans.