International Students: The billion dollar industry

Posted by David Jenkins

As most employers in Australia know international students are not hard to come by at university careers fairs. Their degrees are varied, grades are good and they're eager to work, there's just one problem and it's a two letter acronym: PR or permanent residency. Currently in Australia it's not easy for an employer to take on a graduate who's not an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or doesn't have their PR. But before international students start their job hunt while they've been in university they have played a big part in fueling the Australian economy where over the past decade enrolment numbers in Australian universities have increased steadily. In fact even in the past 5 years we've seen the money bought in by international students grow from $11.7 billion in 2006 to $18 billion dollars last year, and that's not to count the money then spent outside of fees going into Australia.

Is the bubble about to burst?

After a decade of international student enrolment numbers continuously on the climb it's now looking like Australia might start seeing a decline in the country's largest services exporter. As I'm not a political commentator or economist by any means I can't comment on why numbers are going down but one thing that I do want to point out is that since Barack Obama took office it's become a lot easier for international students to study in the USA.

What does Barack Obama have to do with international students studying in Australia?

After September 11 George Bush and his cronies tightened up outsiders coming into the US including student visas. This has lead to other countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand becoming a lot more attractive for international students than the US where things looked unsafe and on top of that a great deal harder to get in. When Obama inherited his dept the Bush gang left behind one way to help pay it back was the world foreign student market which the American doors are now wide open for.

International Students and the Australian Economy

International students now wanting to study in Australia are now facing similar challenges that they were facing 10 years ago in the US (ok maybe not as extreme), but basically when you look at the two countries and the ease for international students to come and study over the past ten years you'll see the ease for studying in America go up and spike when Obama takes office, whereas Australia is becoming its own weapon of mass destruction (to our economy that is) by doing what the US had done ten years ago.

What we've seen at GradConnection

Because of the current PR restrictions it's very rare to see a graduate position where an organisation will sponsor international students on their graduate program. But we have had a number of international companies approach us to get Australian educated international students to come back home as their Australian education and experience is highly valued. Many employers all over Australia we talk to agree that international students have a lot to offer, but with the current PR and visa rules it's becoming increasing harder to consider them after they've completed their Australian degree.

There are some positive signs with the advent of programs such as the Skilled Migration Internship Program-Accounting (SMIPA). This program focuses on enhancing employability skills of international students completing Accounting degrees in Australia. Rick Jones from Professional Pathways Australia, a SMIPA provider, comments, “We have seen fantastic employment outcomes from this program. Over 60 per cent of our SMIPA graduates have been offered permanent employment in Australia within three months of completing the SMIPA program. These statistics show that international graduates are being recognised as employable”.

Professional Pathways Australia is a provider of the Skilled Migration Internship Program-Accounting (SMIPA) and the ACS Professional Year in ICT.


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