For almost a decade now, Australia has been providing the opportunity for many international students to work full-time in our economy after graduation. Commonly referred to as the post-study work right visa (PSWR), it has proven to be a useful marketing tool for Australia as a study destination. However, a recent report commissioned by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) indicates that this visa category is raising expectations that are not necessarily being met. While the student take-up rate continues to grow, the employability outcomes need to improve. In 2011, when the UK was electing to ditch its innovative post-study work rights visa, Australia was seeking an alternative to our generous onshore migration program for fee-paying overseas students. This was because our government had belatedly discovered that it had unwittingly provided tens of thousands of migration pathway visas for hairdressing, commercial cookery, community welfare and IT students. In most cases, these students had no intention of working in these skill-shortage industries. Instead, such courses provided an inexpensive fast track to gaining maximum points towards an onshore migration outcome. As this applied mostly to diploma-level courses, more than two-thirds of our approximately 500,000 overseas students were studying at vocational education level and only a third, higher education.
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