Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia Chief Executive
The Grattan Institute’s new report into international graduates is a timely reminder that Australia’s visa system needs urgent repair (“‘Cut post-study visas for international students’, says Grattan Institute“, 3/10).
Our universities educate tens of thousands of international students each year, yet we largely fail to capitalise on their skills and knowledge beyond the lecture theatre.
Only 28 per cent of these students use their post-study work rights in Australia and just 16 per cent become permanent residents. As we grapple with major skills shortages across most sectors of the economy, Australia is worse off for this self-inflicted brain drain. Our current visa system is to blame.
It deters rather than encourages these talented people to remain in Australia and use their Australian education in the area they have studied. By the time international students graduate, they are well-adjusted to our country and have already made a considerable economic and social contribution.
If there is a clear need for their skills and knowledge, why shouldn’t our system encourage them to stay? Britain, Canada and the US have all cottoned on to the contribution international students make and are all moving to increase the number of international graduates in their migration mix by upping permanent residency targets.
A small increase in permanent skilled visas going to international students would give our regional towns and capital cities the engineers, nurses, doctors and teachers they are crying out for. The government’s new migration strategy must deal Australia into the global race for the talent and skills we need. We already have ground to make up.