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“Same wine in a new bottle”: Australia migration measures receive mixed reviews

New measures set out in a landmark Migration Review for the Australian international education sector are simply “the same wine a new bottle”, according to one stakeholder. 

The post study work visa changes “should be a positive for students” if the Skills in Demand visa works, Claire Field said. Photo: Pexels

The curtailing of post-study work rights has ruffled some feathers

The Migration Review, which was released on December 11, outlined bold new measures to try and bring down the migration rate into Australia and eliminate bad actors from exploiting the education system. 

However, some of the changes have not gone down well with professionals in the international education sector. 

The curtailing of post-study work rights, which has seen the government axe the two year extension and reduce the length of temporary graduate visas for PhD and Master’s coursework students, has ruffled some feathers. 

“Only in July 2023, [the government] attracted students with additional two years of PSW in certain courses,” said Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Global Reach agency. 

“Now, when the student has enrolled and is studying, it is reversed. It is not clear if these students will be given that extra two years when they graduate in 2025.”

AAERI President Nishidhar Borra told The PIE News it would be “unfair” if students don’t receive the work rights they were promised.

VET and higher education consultant Claire Field said if the changes were implemented well, they may be “positive for students”.

“A lot hinges on how well the pathway to the ‘Skills in Demand’ visa works,” she noted. 

Lochan Singh also said that the new Genuine Student Test, unveiled as the replacement to the “subjective and arbitrary” Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement, “appears to be the same wine in a new bottle”. 

“Even though finer details on GST is unavailable, it is clear that it will continue to be a handle to reject student visa applicants exactly the way GTE was and is going to continue to be subjectively applied,” Lochan Singh predicted. 

Borra agreed that the test appears similar to GTE, but said it seems to be “finetuned”. He said he hopes it is consistent among all institutions. 

“Right now the GTE checks adopted by institutes are all at different levels and students get confused,” Borra warned. 

Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA, warned that the numbers being presented as net migration figures “aren’t valid”, due to the large numbers of non-genuine students who entered the country when the borders opened after the pandemic.

“Over 100,000 of these are now on the so-called Covid Recovery full work rights visa and no longer studying. Our sector is confident that once this cohort returns to their home countries then the headline numbers will significantly reduce and become more sustainable. 

“In all of this, the theme is now quality students over quantity,” Honeywood told The PIE. 

“It is ironic, however, that just when we have record low unemployment rates, and are competing in a global race for skills, Australia chooses to send out mixed messages about who we want to come to our country. Of course we are not alone in doing this. 

“Other nations, most recently the UK, are proceeding with similar policy measures,” he said. 

Despite the mixed messaging, Borra and Lochan Singh believe measures such as the higher English language requirements and the heightened scrutiny won’t put off Indian students.

“In all of this, the theme is now quality students over quantity”

“International students, especially from the South Asian countries will still be attracted by the quality universities, as even the new setting for PSW is attractive provided the visas are not necessarily cumbersome,” said Lochan Singh.

Borra noted that most universities ask for a higher score than the new Home Affairs IELTS score already, so that should not deter students. 

What may discourage a different demographic, however, is the new age limit on the Temporary Graduate Visa – students must now be 35 years old or under to apply for one. 

“The negative is in reducing eligibility to post study work visas… potentially ruling out some of the best and brightest Masters and PhD students from studying in Australia,” Field noted. 

“It is clear [the GST] will continue to be a handle to reject student visa applicants”

Ly Tran, a professor in international education at Deakin University, also pointed out how detrimental this could be, especially to international PhD scholars. 

“This is unreasonable and will make many – if not the majority of – international PhD graduates ineligible.

“[It is ironic] as these graduates hold the highest qualification and great potential to contribute to Australia while the intended goal of recent post-study work policy changes is to retain talent and address skills shortages,” said Tran. 

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2 Responses to “Same wine in a new bottle”: Australia migration measures receive mixed reviews

  1. Post work study right should be given to student after successfully completing the studies up to two years keeping age bar at 50 as usual. Rest of the strategy seem fine and students will return to their respective countries . Students come here with huge education loan back home and TR will give them financially be strong and stable.

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