Australian international students
Some universities in Australia have been accused of lowering their English standards for international students. Source: WILLIAM WEST/AFP

Lecturers have alleged that some elite universities in the Land Down Under are lowering the standards of their lectures for Australian international students with poor English standards out of fear they will complain in large and “highly organised” groups.

According to The Australian, an anonymous professor at a leading Sydney university said even the slightest issue with exams could lead to joint complaints signed by 100 aggrieved students.

“International students didn’t used to be organised but in the past two years that has all changed,” claimed the professor, adding that it’s easier for universities to adapt to students’ expectations and receive good evaluations in return.

The issue of Australian universities reportedly lowering their English standards is nothing new. 

Last year, The Sydney Morning Herald quoted a research paper from the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) that said top institutions were compromising standards and taking “massive financial risks in pursuit of this pot of gold”.

The report’s author, Sydney University sociologist and CIS fellow Salvatore Babones, called on vice-chancellors to urgently raise admission standards and reduce international enrolments to reduce their vulnerability to sudden revenue collapse, it said. 

Universities, however, rejected the claims, saying they maintained high English standards for all students and were working to diversify their international student base, while Universities Australia said the “vast majority” of universities were in a low-risk financial position.

Questionable English standards?

Standard practice requires Australian international students whose first language is not English to meet English requirements via proficiency tests such as the IELTS and TOEFL.

The University of Sydney requires an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with no band below 6.0 — some faculties and courses have different requirements.

The minimum overall score at Monash University is 6.5 for the Academic IELTS, 550 for the paper-based TOEFL and 79 for the internet-based TOEFL at Monash University, but some courses have higher English language requirements than others.

Undergraduate English language requirements at the University of Melbourne is 577 or more for TOEFL or a score of 6.5 or more in IELTS.

How Australian international students can improve their English

International students whose first language isn’t English can improve their command of the language via a myriad of ways. 

Apps like Duolingo let users learn new languages at their own pace. The app has a colourful user interface, and students can practise speaking and writing using the tool. 

There are also online language tutors via platforms such as Preply for those who prefer practising with a live person or who wish to complement their classroom learning. Their tutor may be based in any part of the continent, and students can select an individual who meets their budget and criteria before commencing.

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