Australia to set limits on new international student enrollments for universities

The Australian government recently announced plans to introduce legislation this week aimed at supporting the integrity and sustainability of the international education sector.

This will be achieved by setting limits on the number of new international enrollments which Australian universities can accept. Described as a “soft cap,” this approach is considered more favourable than a strict, rigid limit on student numbers.

According to the media release, this legislative move is the next step in advancing the objectives of the Government’s Migration Strategy, led by the Minister for Education, Jason Clare.

Exception to the rule

The proposed cap model is flexible because it includes a rule that allows schools to accept more students than the cap if new student accommodation can be built.

This new housing should help both international and local students reduce pressure on the housing market. The education sector is awaiting more details on how this cap will be implemented.

It appears this cap is a big challenge for Australia’s international education sector, which has been fighting against any limits on foreign student enrollment for months. Additionally, the upcoming legislation will introduce some other new rules, some of which the government has mentioned before.

More specifically, it includes:
  • There will be a hold on registrations for new international education providers for up to 12 months, as well as a pause on approving new courses offered by currently registered providers.
  • Institutions or schools that want to become registered as international education providers must show that they have successfully provided quality education to domestic students before they can start enrolling international students.

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said, “Most providers do the right thing and are in education and training for the right reasons, in introducing the new measures this weekend. They will benefit from a high quality and sustainable international education sector, and the Government’s efforts to crack down on non-genuine and unscrupulous actors who undermine integrity and trust in the sector.”

At the same time, he added, “Because there is no place for dodgy operators who undermine the strong reputation of the sector, we are making it tougher for bottom-feeders to take advantage of international students for a quick buck.”

  • Response from stakeholders

Responding to the government announcement, Universities Australia Chief Executive Luke Sheehy said,

“Decades of careful and strategic work by universities and the Government has seen Australia grow to be a leading provider of international education.

“We can’t let this work go to waste…We will be working closely with the Government to co-design the policy settings needed to give the international education sector a strong and sustainable footing from which to grow into the future.”

The CEO of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), Phil Honeywood, added that,

 “Under the pending legislation, the Federal Government is looking to allocate a limit on the number of new overseas student enrolments available to each CRICOS [Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students] registered provider.


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