The new measures – initially announced in September last year – will allow eligible international higher education graduates to access to an extra two years of post-study work rights. Additionally the work hours cap for international students will be increased from 40 hours to 48 hours per fortnight.
In total, eligible bachelor graduates across the country will see their work rights extended from two to four years, masters from three to five years, while all doctoral graduates will have their rights increased from four to six years.
Included among the list of eligible qualifications – which will be monitored and reviewed on an annual basis – are some 226 courses in medical and nursing, professional health, diagnostic, allied health, teaching, engineering, ICT, agriculture and more.
As courses differ between education providers, some may not be eligible, and the Department of Education will release a comprehensive list mapped to CRICOS course codes before implementation of the policy in July.
The government added that future changes to the qualifications list will not impact students starting eligible courses, meaning if a course is removed from the list, students will still be eligible for the extension on graduation.
Authorities also emphasised that the extension is on top of the existing additional one to two years of post-study work rights for those in regional Australia.
Doctoral degree graduates represent a “highly-skilled cohort with significant potential for this cohort to contribute to Australia’s economy and society”, the government noted.
The approved two-year post-study work rights visa extensions were announced as the Council for International Education met in Canberra.
Phil Honeywood welcomed the policy update on social media, writing that together with Council for International Education co-convenor Julian Hill MP, he is “pleased with 24 hour per week work rights from 1 July”.
“Australia needs more skilled workers to ease the current pressures weighing on our labour market and the economy,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said.
“Making it easier for more of the talented international graduates our universities educate to use their Australian education in Australia’s cities and regions makes complete sense.”
“Australia needs more skilled workers to ease the current pressures”
Australia’s current skills crisis highlights the urgent need to retain more international students that generate $40.3 billion in economic activity, she continued.
“Hundreds of thousands of international students come to our world-class universities each year, yet very few remain here – just 16%. We are worse off for that, economically and socially..
“Universities Australia has advocated strongly for this change, and we congratulate the Albanese government for its strong leadership and solutions-driven approach to meeting our workforce needs.
“The decision to extend working rights for PhD students, in particular, will provide a significant boost to the development of Australia’s knowledge economy.”
The government’s Post-Study Work Rights Working Group has responded to a report submitted on October 28 last year, in which it said that it supports the 20 recommendations going forward.
The submission had called for eligible qualifications to cover higher education only, the skills priority list to be used to identify occupations, and other measures – such as including the needs of students and graduates in the 2023 migrant worker reform package and clarifying the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman to students – to address the potential exploitation of students and graduates.
While the policy change will be viewed as a huge victory for the Australian international education sector, principal at DXP Consulting, Mary Clarke, did question whether government should be selecting which fields of training are eligible for the extended rights.
“True to its Jobs and Skills Summit undertaking, the government has the extended post study work rights of international graduates. This is of course good news,” she wrote on LinkedIn.
“But … Should the government be picking winners regarding which fields of education are eligible? Would that not distort study choices? And why only take skills shortages into consideration? What about human capital development?”