There has been quite a news lately on Australia universities and overseas students, mostly bringing out the dark side of this education business. This article on the Sydney Morning Heralds, "Big selling degrees prop up regional university", looked at how the full fee paying students have transformed how the Central Queensland University is to be operated. It is funny that the biggest intake for CQU is now from their Sydney campus, which is 2,000km+ away from their Rockhampton main campus. 4,000+ overseas students, whom I presume were mainly coming from Asia, crammed into two of their buildings in Sydney CBD, trying to obtain the minimum requirement for fast tracking their PR visa - an Australian university degree. Study ain't easy for them, and many of them struggle, quoted from this article:
At least half the overseas students studying at Central Queensland University's Sydney campus were not up to undergraduate standard, a lecturer working there says.
And reading through another article from SMH, "Stressed-out students queue up for sick notes at exam time", is just plainly depressing. No wonder how some of those overseas students were struggling. Besides having dodgy education agents overseas that used fake English examination results, also quoted from the previous article, "Students are working long hours in restaurants to pay off debts..."
Even if those students do manage to hand in all the assignments, pass all the exams, successfully graduate with an university degree and is granted skill migrant visa by the Australian immigration office, it is no where near the end of their hardship. With poor communication skill, bad social skill as they do not mix with Aussies well, a degree that is half-paid by bribery and lack of relations and contacts here in Australia, the first few years, if not most of theirs working life will be very difficult. All these make them wonder, maybe they should not come to Australia and study in universities in the first place.
This is just an observation I have had over the past decade, especially from the last 3-4 years. FOCUS is an Christian church for the overseas students in UNSW. Some students decided to apply for immigration after completing their course, and some of them I have personally worked with. Many have got through their transition period quite well, and can now really treat Sydney as their second home. However, many others have lived in nothing but misery. I have seen master graduates with a few years of working experience overseas, grumbly labouring in the local grocery store. Or ex-PhD student doing home delivery for restuarants, unsatisfied. Or couples who live on the state welfare system, and they have placed their only hope in their next generation. Vivian and I have had the "privilege" to talk to some of them, suggesting them to consider the possibility to go back home. Not for the sake of the gospel, as many of them were not Christians and do not have time for God under their current stress. The life here in Australia is just too difficult for them...
But sometimes it is their "pride" that erases the possibility of turning back. Sad. Very sad sometimes.
But why? Why the universities in Australia, or shall I call them tertiary education retailer, allow so many intake of overseas students to happen? Quoted from the very first article:
The deputy vice-chancellor of university, Professor Jim Mienczakowski, said it was totally dependent on foreign fees for its survival. "We would not have been here as a university in the last two years without the partner's [the Campus Group] input," he said...
The fee income last year had saved a staff cut of 160, he (Professor Mienczakowski of CQU) said.
Basically it is saying, the university is short-sighted - they want to overcome the current financial issue right now, at the expense of the lives of those struggling overseas students, and how those immigration would impact Australia's social structure. They make the universities into corporations, serving to maximise the dividend paid to their shareholders, instead of serving to provide knowledge to those who want them and are capable of mastering them.
A short-sighted university selling education to short-sighted students who think by buying that degree the world would become their oyster... That makes sense. (sic)
But are the universities the only short-sighted party? By no means. One reason (beside greed of course, but they will not acknowledge that) they used to justify their action is the shortage of education funding from the federal government. Basically, universities are getting less money from the government, so they have to source it from somewhere else, i.e. the overseas students. Aren't we having huge federal budget surplus over the last few years because of GST? Can't government puts in more funding in the education sector? No they cannot. What about health and Medicare? What about social welfare and Centrelink? And most importantly, what about tax cut?
Our government is short-sighted. If you have billions of dollars of surplus on your budget, and you are willing to spend them on your people (it is their money anyway), will you (1) give them a tax break that will immediately please all your future votes (and really annoy your oppositions at the same time) (2) invest on infrastructure building that might only appeal to the minority of voters now, but might have long lasting effect? We all know what had happened, and the rest is history.
Who can we blame then, beside confessing that we ourselves are short-sighted? Isn't a tax cut what we always wanted, especially those on high income, the one who usually donate to political parties? Wow. 1,350 bucks extra for me each year! Thank you Peter! You should be our PM instead of John! I'll vote you next time instead of that ugly Kym! ... I was instantly sold by the immediate remedy to my financial situation provided by our good government. Education? I don't care - I am already graduated. Medicare? Nah. I am still relatively young and health. Social welfare? Don't give any more money to those bludgers!!!
Short-sighted? We are.