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International graduate demand up, Australia

More good news for Australian international education: international graduate employability in the country climbed 12 percentage points last year to the highest level since the financial crisis began in 2008. In contrast, Australasian graduate employability during the same period fell slightly.

Overseas students were particularly sought after in the communication, technology and utilities sector

The findings come in a Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) survey of more than 500 graduate employers. It shows that the proportion who recruited international graduates grew from 19% in 2010 to 30.8% last year (more than 60%) – nearing the 2008 peak of 35.3%.

GCA Executive Director Dr Noel Edge told University World News: “There appears to be more employment opportunities for international graduates and we hope to see this grow into the future.”

The rise follows a two-year slump spurred by the financial crisis—the figure fell to around 20% in 2009 and stayed flat in 2010. Highlighting this, Australasian graduate recruitment fell 3.4% in 2011 and is expected to remain static next year.

Skills shortages appear to be behind the international demand, with two in five employers reporting difficulty in sourcing skilled candidates – 4% up on last year.

Overseas students were particularly sought after in the communication, technology and utilities sector – up from 32% to 47% this year. The accounting and finance, manufacturing, and construction, mining and engineering sectors also saw growth.

Another driver may have been the new points-based system for permanent residence visas introduced last July. The system favours offshore applications from foreigners with skilled experience rather than onshore applications from international students graduating from Australian universities.

Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said the growth was “testament to the high quality education that Australian universities provide international students”.

The rise will send a powerful message to overseas students, who have turned away from Australia in droves because of visa restrictions implemented in 2009, costing the sector $2.7 billion in revenue in 2011.

In a bid to rekindle recruitment, the country has introduced a raft of reforms, including an extension of post-study work rights for up to two years  for all international students, increasing to four years for higher level studies.

“The implementation of the Knight Review recommendations, and particularly the new post-study work experience provisions, should see the sector return to growth,” said Robinson.



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