Post-COVID, international education providers are finding it easier to recruit students with the temporary lifting of the restrictions on student work hours still to be rescinded
In thinking about the various options for Australia to address our IT skills shortage I have been looking at the VET providers offering a key IT qualification, the Diploma of Information Technology (which educates people for work as database/systems administrators and ICT security specialists).
There are 152 RTOs approved to offer the Diploma of IT and almost one-third (47) have been newly registered in the last six years (six of them in the last 12 months).
Eighty per cent of these new RTOs have CRICOS approval, i.e. they can teach international students, and collectively these 38 providers have approval to educate 32,575 students.
According to the details on CRICOS, nine of the principal education officers at these 38 RTOs appear to be running their businesses from Gmail or Yahoo email accounts, including some which have been operating since 2016.
An examination of provider websites and the LinkedIn profiles of their senior staff shows that some providers are headed up by individuals with deep VET experience. Others appear to be lacking either deep knowledge of VET and/or of the tech sector.
Post-COVID, international education providers are finding it easier to recruit students, with the temporary lifting of the restrictions on student work hours still to be rescinded (i.e. international students can currently work as many hours as they wish). At the same time there are reports of significant visa fraud in India, a substantial increase in offshore visa applications from Nepal (leading former Immigration Deputy Secretary Abul Rizvi to question if the “strong demand from Nepal is a response to the unlimited work rights”), high rates of refusal for offshore student visa applications from India and Pakistan, and then news last week that the Western Australia government is incentivising international education agents with a $10 million sweetener.
As a former VET regulator the alarm bells in my head are ringing loudly.
If the international students studying with these providers are undertaking internships or other work integrated learning where they can develop their IT skills during their diploma study, and if after further study they wish to stay on in Australia on a temporary graduate visa, Australia will benefit and so will the students.
At the moment though I have a lot of questions about what is happening in this part of the sector and I wonder what else is occurring in other fields of study where new CRICOS VET providers are flourishing…?
Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector