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Foreign student cap ‘will exacerbate accountant shortage’


CPA Australia and CA ANZ have warned the government against rushing to set a cap on international students as the profession faces a shrinking graduate pipeline.

By Christine Chen 13 minute read

The government’s plan to cap international student numbers will exacerbate the accountant shortage and have negative knock-on effects for businesses and the economy, accounting bodies warn.

The decision to limit the number of enrolments allowed for tertiary education providers by early 2025 was announced over the weekend, with non-refundable student visa application fees also reportedly set to increase.

CPA Australia’s business investment and international lead, Gavan Ord, said limiting students, especially those studying in-demand disciplines, would hurt the accounting profession and the economy.


“Australia is already experiencing a shortage of qualified accountants,” he said.

“Any limit on the number of international students who wish to study accounting will exacerbate this shortage and have a negative knock-on effect to Australian business and the economy as a whole.”

He said the plan needed to be carefully considered and debated because “wrong steps can have significant short and long term implications for Australia”.

“Australia’s international education sector is a major contributor to the domestic economy and jobs. However, it is much more than that – it provides people from all over the world access to a quality education,” he said.

Simon Grant, CA ANZ’s group executive for advocacy and international development, said the cap needed to be considered in the context of changes to student visas and other recent migration initiatives.

“While demand for accounting and audit professionals in Australia climbs, the profession is facing a rapidly narrowing pipeline of future talent,” he said.

“Given the nationwide skills shortage and global competition for this talent, it is in Australia’s interests to provide a destination of choice for international students. Students have choices and will otherwise choose to go elsewhere.”

The government estimates the international education sector was worth $36.4 billion to the economy in FY2022–23.

However, after the international student population reached a record high of 671,000 in March – a 15 per cent increase on last year – pressure has mounted on the government to control the inflow of migrants.

“Labor’s opening of the floodgates to record levels of international students is fuelling the housing crisis and causing unprecedented chaos in the international education sector,” shadow minister for education Sarah Henderson said.

Education Minister Jason Clare said the reforms contained in the International Education and Skills Strategic Framework would ensure the continued integrity, quality and sustainability of the sector.

“[The draft framework] will lay the groundwork for an international education sector that is more sustainable and provides the highest quality education and student experience for all students,” Minister Clare said.

According to the document, powers to set limits on enrolments, including within specific courses or locations, would apply across higher education and VET to “carefully manage” growth and the impact on housing and infrastructure.

However, providers would be allowed to exceed set caps if they built additional student accommodation.

“Government will work closely with the sector to implement this policy and establish transitional arrangements that support the sector to manage this change effectively,” it said.

The framework would be finalised and released later in 2024 following consultation with “key international education stakeholders”, the government said.

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Christine Chen

Christine Chen


Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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