A former international student has lifted the lid on colleges allowing foreigners an easy route into Australia.
The British man in his 30s told Yahoo News Australia while he moved onto a student visa after a working holiday in a bid to stay in the country, he was dismayed by the quality of the college and the education course he enrolled in.
He believed the government's lax regulations for the industry exasperated its problems.
"Student visas are a rort in Australia. The government only wanted more money, they couldn't care less about students," he said.
Data shows the number of student visas issued by Australia annually doubled from 2005 to 2019.
While the focus of The Age's recent exposé on 'ghost colleges' in Melbourne centred around Asian students, the man said many Brits and other Europeans are using student visas through the colleges as a way to stay in Australia and work illegally beyond their work restrictions.
The former student said "pretty much all" the people enrolled at his Sydney college were using it for a visa, often after being unable to gain sponsorship from an employer to stay beyond their one-year working holiday visa.
He said the college would issue large fines for missing deadlines in what he believed was another attempt to extort money from students. Class attendance was poor, as was the quality of some of the educators, he claimed.
Majority at colleges have no intention of studying
University of Sydney academic Salvatore Babones told The Age students at these colleges are "not genuinely studying" but "simply overpaying for a work visa”.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, students were limited to 40 hours of paid work a fortnight, however the student said many, including himself, far exceeded that limit. From July this year, the government has increased the number of hours to 48 after the rule was temporarily scrapped during the height of the pandemic.
Fed up with his situation, the student left Australia in 2020 just before the pandemic took hold. He said he would "definitely not" have started his course if he'd known what he does now.
The federal government has now vowed to crack down on colleges exploiting students and the system.
Federal Labor MP Julian Hill said the sheer number of colleges believed to be dodgy was "unacceptable".
Many students initially apply for a reputable university before switching to a much-cheaper vocational college, a process allowed by the Department of Education.
Students either use the colleges to start immediate full-time employment or an avenue to permanent residency.
Labor government's crackdown on dodgy colleges
Labor has blamed the previous government for the issues with the system and has now closed a loophole that allows providers to shift international students who have been in Australia for less than six months from study to an arrangement that allows them to access work.
Education Minister Jason Clare said "dodgy and unscrupulous players" were trying to take advantage of international students.
"This change will work to stop predatory second providers from enrolling students before they have studied for the required six months at their first provider," he said.
"This will help ensure the integrity of one of our biggest exports while cracking down on dodgy operators."
The change takes effect immediately.
The government will also increase the amount of savings international students will need in order to get a student visa to ensure they can support themselves and are not in urgent need of employment.
International students will need $24,505 in savings from October 1, a 17 per cent increase.
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