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New Changes to Post-Study Work Rights

With shortages in the Australian workforce, Editorial Assistant Zoe Van Der Merwe describes the new changes to post-study work rights of international students.


In early September 2022, the Australian Government revealed changes to the post study work rights of international students studying in Australia. Under these visa changes announced by the Education Minister, Jason Clare, international students will have an extra two years to stay and work in Australia, in an attempt to “help fill some of the chronic skills shortages we have right now.” [1] The move by the Australian Government hopes to encourage more international students to consider permanent migration pathways. However, with this change it is important to note there are still some limitations. So, who is able to access this?


According to the joint media release by Jason Clare and the Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil, post study work rights will be increased:


Two years to four years for select Bachelor’s degrees;


Three years to five years for select Master’s degrees;


Four years to six years for select PhD’s.


Rights will be focused in areas with verified skills shortages. [2] While specific degrees are yet to be announced, graduates in nursing, teaching, IT and engineering, will be prioritised.


With only sixteen percent of international students staying on after the completion of their studies, Clare told The Australian Financial Review Higher Education Summit there needed to be more incentives for students to stay after graduation and join the Australian workforce. [3] O’Neil reflected this sentiment, stating that due to the impact of the pandemic on international education, this outcome gives students “who earn degrees in Australia the chance to contribute to the productivity of our economy.” [4]


The development has been met with increasingly positive responses and has been viewed as a much-needed measure to address the critical shortages to Australia’s workforce. Indeed, Universities Australia Chief Executive, Catriona Jackson, reinforced that with “[m]ore than half of the one million jobs expected to be created in the next five years requir[ing] a university degree,” this practical initiative begins the process of decreasing the skills gap across key sectors. [5]


Furthermore, narrowing this divide between job opportunity and skilled workers is not the only hope arising from new changes to post-study work rights. These measures may be a solution to easing increasing pressure on industry. Chris Stoltz, an engineering professor at La Trobe University, stated that having more internationally qualified engineers working in Australia would aid in meeting industry demands. Figures from Engineers Australia, which he quoted in his statement, revealed the disparity between the workplace demand for 16,000 engineering graduates a year and a mere 9000 produced by universities. [6] The initiative, which predicts an influx of students to Australia, hopes to meet these demands.


However, there continue to be prevalent voices of concern. Abul Rizvi, a former senior official in the Department of Immigration, stated that longer post-study work visas only increase students in “immigration limbo”. [7] Rizvi advocates that the Australian Government should rather focus on improving the quality of courses according to skills needs and provide more transparent pathways for these students. [8]


With international education seeing an increase of $36.1 million invested in visa processing over the next nine months, only time will tell if these changes will have a beneficial impact.

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