UNSW Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney are embarking on a nationwide survey of international students.

Launched today, the survey asks international students what help they need to avoid exploitation by unscrupulous employers and accommodation providers.

The survey follows the final report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, released on 7 March 2019.

The taskforce, headed by Allan Fels, called on education providers to play a greater role in assisting international students to get the information and help they need to address exploitation.

In 2017 UTS Faculty of Law academic Dr Laurie Berg and UNSW Faculty of Law academic Bassina Farbenblum published Wage Theft in Australia.

It found that a quarter of international students were earning $12/hr or less, and 43% of students earned $15/hr or less – well below minimum wage.

“Our research demonstrated that many international students are substantially underpaid at work and exploited by unscrupulous accommodation providers,” Ms Farbenblum said.

“Education providers are deeply concerned but lack data on how to best assist international students to avoid these situations and get help.”

Independent research by the UNSW Human Rights Clinic has found that international students are also commonly exploited in the Sydney housing market.  

“To be effective, the education sector’s response must be informed by the voices of international students,” Dr Berg said.

“We are not only asking students what information they lack, but what would most empower them to make different choices or to come forward when they are mistreated.”

Funded by StudyNSW, partners on the Information For Impact project include English Australia, ISANA NSW, Redfern Legal Centre, Council of International Students Australia, International Student Education Agents Association and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“This issue is bigger than any one education provider and this is why UNSW and UTS have been leading a sector wide response through engagement with government and peak bodies,” UNSW Sydney Pro Vice-Chancellor, International, Laurie Pearcey, said.

“This research should be on the radar of every Australian university,” UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, International, Iain Watt, said.

“This is an example of the kind of collaboration which universities are uniquely placed to undertake.”

The survey is available in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese at http://www.mwji.org/internationalstudentsurvey.

The findings of the survey will be published in late 2019.

UNSW Media