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Australia’s migration lure for foreign students

Australia flags migration lure for foreign students

Australia’s education minister has flagged migration incentives to boost enrolments from STEM-focused foreign students as part of a post-Covid reboot of the ailing international education industry.

In a prepared speech delivered at RMIT University, Alan Tudge said that while Australia’s greatest skill needs were in data science, digital technology, health, and engineering, almost half of universities’ international enrolments were in commerce.

Other countries have higher proportions of foreigners studying STEM, he said. “In the US, two-thirds of international student enrolments are in engineering, science, and health.

“Can we use levers, including migration levers, to encourage more students to study in the areas where we know we have shortages? We do this to encourage students to study in areas outside the big capitals. Could it be extended?”

Australia already grants limited priority to would-be migrants with locally acquired postgraduate degrees in science, information technology, and engineering.

But linking international education more closely with immigration by boosting the skilled migration points for applicants with certain Australian qualifications could risk a revival of the perverse outcomes experienced over a decade ago.

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said lessons had been learned from that period. “It was far too easy for students from certain countries to do inexpensive vocational qualifications with no intention of working in those professions.

“Since then, Australia has focused its skills-in-demand list on high-level vocations, and many have significant barriers to entry that filter out international students who just want to game the system.”

Migration settings at that time encouraged international students en masse to switch to courses in accounting, hairdressing, and cooking – fields almost guaranteed to provide immigration pathways.

This led the government to sever the link between international education and migration in 2010 by slashing the number of occupations offering permanent residency status.

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