Work-study options expand (a bit) for international students

Education Minister Dan Tehan is “cutting red tape” so they can take short-courses separate to their primary studies  

It’s intended to improve “employability while in Australia.” The minister nominates first-aid, responsible service of alcohol and barrista courses as examples.

Mr Tehan adds the change will also create “new opportunities” for education providers. “to expand their business delivery to international students.”  The new study-stream will require amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, on which the minister says the government will consult.

It’s another move by Mr Tehan to expand market supply of short courses, of which the minister is a fan saying last week, he wants them to be a “permanent fixture of the Australian education system.”

However, there are limits to his enthusiasm in the international education context, warning such courses will not be the basis of student visas.

It may not help much now but it sends a needed signal 


Under normal market settings this would be sensible – increasing flexibility for international students and allowing them to hone their foci increases their ability to be job ready. It also sends a strong signal that Australia is leading the way in supporting career outcomes that industry wants.

However, and it is a big however, the current market climate in no way speaks to these changes being effective, most of all for the education providers the minister seeks to help.

The number of international students holding a visa is expected to decrease further over coming months. There is also a large cohort studying offshore – just under 20 per cent of visa holders.

And then there is the deferment cohort – in-country but deferring without penalty, this group is up four-fold on 2019.

People engaged in international education say those who remain in the country and studying are just getting by financially so it is hard to see what additional study they would be willing to stump up for, which makes it difficult to see who the minister’s move will help, for now.

But it is important that all levels of government continue to practically support international students who are in Australia now.

We need to continually remind ourselves these students hail from parts of the world that haven’t been as fortunate as Australia and whose parents and family members continue with the reality of a far worse COVID-19 situation than we are experiencing.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent