The International Employment Outcomes report, which looks at the outcomes of the 2012 and 2014 graduate cohorts, found those who returned home were more likely to be earning above the median local salary, with the groups earning on average A$54,000 and A$42,000 respectively.
Meanwhile, 79% of international students were in full-time employment three years after completion of studies and 67% were employed a year after graduation.
“It may highlight that the expectations on salary are higher than reality”
“When compared with similar surveys for domestic students, the results indicate that graduate employment trends for international graduates are comparable to their domestic peers,” AUIDF representative and University of Melbourne executive director international Carmel Murphy said.
Murphy told The PIE News the results were a clear indication “that Australian universities are preparing students well for employment with the right graduate attributes”.
Importantly, however, the report does not specify employment rates per location, with less than half of respondents from either cohort located within Australia at the time. Roughly half were in their home country, with the rest either in a third country or unknown location.
The results also don’t show the extent to which the introduction of the 2013 post-study work rights influenced employment figures, as only a small proportion of students surveyed would have had their student visa issued after November 2011 and therefore been eligible for the visa stream.
Cate Gribble, senior research fellow at RMIT, said while research she conducted independently of the report indicated it was more likely international graduates were struggling to find employment within Australia, it was highly dependent on qualification and sector.
In particular, Gribble said students within regional health care were at an advantage when finding work.
“International graduates in nursing are highly sought after in regional locations because they can’t get sufficient local nurses, and often they see the value in employing international nurses for a variety of reasons,” she said.
The report reflected Gribble’s views, finding half of the respondents worked in one of four sectors: education and training, finance and insurance, health care and social assistance, and professional, scientific and technical services.
In terms of overall satisfaction, 81% of respondents said they believed their Australian degree was worth the financial investment and 84% agreed the content of their studies helped develop their skills and readiness for the workplace.
Interestingly, in contrast to the report finding international graduates achieved higher average incomes back home, only 60% of respondents said they believed their qualification helped them earn that higher salary.
“We need to continue to provide the right opportunities for students within and outside the curriculum”
Murphy said the reasons for this discrepancy were difficult to unpack and could be due to several factors, including location and expectations.
“It may highlight that the expectations on salary are higher than reality. It would be interesting to see if this percentage changed a few years out, rather than at recent graduate level,” she said.
Gribble hypothesised the discrepancy highlighted the increasing demand for graduates both within and outside of Australia to have additional skills and experiences outside their studies.
“While in the past an overseas qualification would have been an automatic entry into the labour market and a good job, that’s decreased over time,” she said.
“Returning graduates also need that package of qualification, work experience, and demonstration that they’ve got other skills and attributes as well.”
Both Gribble and Murphy said Australian universities needed to keep working to ensure international graduates are satisfied with their studies and having their expectations met.
“We need to continue to provide the right opportunities for students within and outside the curriculum,” Murphy said.
Graduate employability continues to be an ongoing concern for international students in Australia, with the Council of International Students Australia last year calling for an industry wide approach to tackling the issue.