In various sandstone cloisters around the nation, highly-paid vice-chancellors are wondering where their next bonus might come from.
A key cog in their money-making machines has just been removed with transitions from international student visas to 457 visas halving last year.
Photo: Robert Peet
With the carrot of residency being dangled, the quality of Australian degrees has not mattered so much as long as the rich fees kept rolling in. Hence the infamous pressure on university staff to pass sub-standard foreign students.
With the visa carrot removed, our universities are playing catchup to market their courses on quality instead.
The plunge in 457 applications has occured before the government's new and tougher temporary work visa system starts on March 1. The immediate impact has been felt in the workplace.
Sherrell notes applications for 457 visas in the ICT and construction industries are down by 41 and 44 per cent, respectively.
"These are substantial changes to visa trends, unseen in recent years," Sherrell tweeted.
The universities are likely to see impact in next year's enrolments - something that is not coming as a surprise to them.
In an off-the-record conversation, the university industry has admitted knowing the problem was coming, along with the realisation that quality shortcuts would come back to bite them.
The fees foreign students pay to attend our universities are the core of our third-biggest export industry, behind iron ore and tourism.
The law of unintended consequences is always at work.
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