Australia now a best-offer in international ed

Increases to post-study work rights for many international students make Australia a leading choice. The government has done well to balance the needs of multiple sectors in what appears to a classic win-win scenario, at least for the short to medium term


The changes (CMM yesterday) mean Australia has the potential to leapfrog many competitor countries’ offers and come at an opportune time.

The UK is still deciding whether its  international student intake should be reduced, Canada is dealing with international enrolment and experience issues, and the USA is slowly rebuilding from COVID and Trump.

Australia may now be the best offer on the global stage if it wasn’t already.

Rebuilding the international education sector has been said to be a priority of the new(ish) Labor government. Importantly, the new government appears to be listening in implementing all recommendations from the Post-Study Work rights working group from October last year.

What’s new

(Full information from the Department of Home Affairs is available here.)

 Post-study work entitlements  New extended work rights come into effect from July 1. Current settings will be increased by two years. This will extend post-study work rights from, two years to four years for select bachelor degrees, three years to five years for select masters degrees and four years to six years for all doctoral degrees.

These settings will be a very large carrot for internationals seeking to stay in Australia upon completing their study.

However they don’t apply to all. Degree areas that count include medical and nursing, professional health, diagnostic, allied health, teaching, engineering, ICT, and agriculture (including environment and food).

The notable exception are business students.

Regional study settings are maintained, meaning students studying in regional or remote locations may be eligible for an additional two years. One may argue whether increasing course-related post-study work rights across the board will diminish the appeal of the existing one or two year bonus for students in regional areas, although the new increases also apply there.

Work rights for international students increase from 40 hours to 48 hours per fortnight, noting the previous government temporarily ended the cap altogether during COVID. However critics will respond that reimposing a cap, even at an increased level, will strip the business community of a workforce that it has come to depend on.

However, CEO of the International Education Association of Australian, Phil Honeywood counters this, saying, “the return to capped working hours while studying will refocus on recruiting quality students over volume.”

All in all, this a great package of reforms for the international ed sector that firmly returns policy settings to the principle that students educated in this country should be prioritised via a skills agenda to support our economy, where required. And it is good for employers, especially those in regions desperate for skilled workers

The government has done well to balance the needs of multiple sectors with what appears to a classic win-win scenario, at least for the short to medium term.

But, there’s a but

These reforms will undoubtedly increase international student numbers studying on-shore. And an increased pool of students seeking to stay in Australia after their studies availing themselves of these new measures will create a multiplier effect.

Adding them to an increase in 2022-23 Migration Program planning levels up from 160 000 in 2021-22 to 195 000 (21.9 per cent) creates a question; where will these new longer-term visitors and migrants live, given the overheated rental market due to housing construction shortfalls?

The government announced a migration review last year which is yet to report and post study work rights increases are the first related changes since it was announced. They might be an insight into the government’s thoughts on broader migration settings.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM