Indian Students Banned At Five Australian Universities After Visa Panic
Applications have surged post-COVID, and are now on track for the largest intake of Indian students ever seen. However, universities have deemed that many applications are not from ‘genuine temporary entrants’ per Australian visa requirements, and that many are at risk of overstaying their visas.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have uncovered that five Australian universities have banned or restricted students from specific Indian states, following a surge in enrollment applications.
Emails from within Victoria University, Edith Cowan University, University of Wollongong, Torrens University, and agents working for Southern Cross University, reveal the increased surveillance of Indian students.
Applications have surged post-COVID, and are now on track for the largest intake of Indian students ever seen. However, universities have deemed that many applications are not from “genuine temporary entrants” per Australian visa requirements, and that many are at risk of overstaying their visas.
Universities applying the ban are concerned about their “risk rating”, awarded by the Home Affairs department, being downgraded. Universities are ranked based on the risk they pose to the visa system, with risks becoming downgraded as more of their enrolled students overstay their visas to continue working. The Home Affairs Department’s confidential risk assessment also ranks countries, forming some of the basis for this decision, and students from higher risk countries must provide more evidence that they will not overstay their visa, work more than their allowed hours, or commit fraud within their applications.
Universities also appear to be concerned that Home Affairs will reduce their ability to fast-track student visas should they accept applicants from risky areas. The Home Affairs department has reported that following the reopening of borders in 2021, there was an increase in incomplete applications and fraudulent information and documentation.
The current process requires that applicants are first accepted into an educational institution, and then assessed by Home Affairs. An unprecedented 94% of Indian applications were rejected this February, from students seeking to study vocational subjects, according to statistics published by the Home Affairs Department. Less than 1% of applicants from the United States, the United Kingdom and France were rejected. By contrast, 91% of Indian applicants were accepted in 2006.
Applications have been outright banned from Indian states Punjab and Haryana at Edith Cowan, and Victoria University has banned eight Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.
Khanh Tran, an international student activist, told Honi “it is uncomfortable that universities are reacting in a kneejerk way to what is clearly an issue with questionable education agents. There are potentially thousands of potential students in Punjab and Haryana affected by these universities’ reactions.
“It is concerning and to me, students who’ve worked so hard should not be burdened with restrictions like these.”
This comes following Albanese’s recent visit to India where he announced the new Maitri Programme, which will ensure qualifications from Australia are recognised in India and vice-versa.
The 20-hour per week limit on international student work was lifted in January 2022 by the Morrison government. Universities believe that this has encouraged people to apply for student visas and work low-skill jobs by applying to cheaper education institutions. The limit will be reintroduced on July 1, but will be lifted to 24 hours a week.
Tertiary education is Australia’s fourth largest export after iron ore, coal, and natural gas. The University of Sydney alone took $1.4 billion of revenue in 2021 from overseas students. Many universities receive more revenue from international students than from domestic students.
This investigation also reveals the exploitative nature of education agents, the recruiters that posit to help international students apply to Australian universities. Most international applications are facilitated by these agents, however they face little government regulation, with universities and colleges acting as the arbiters. Universities and colleges pay a commission to these agents, and can end partnerships should the agents act inappropriately.