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Australia: “Post-study work ops lacking”

Academics from one of Australia’s top 20 universities have warned the country could deter international students unless it improves access to post-study employment opportunities. The warning comes despite Australia introducing the most generous post-study work rights of any leading study destination last year.

The findings follow vast improvements to post-study work rights introduced last November.

Cate Gribble and Jill Blackmore from Deakin University , Melbourne, interviewed 130 international students of nursing, accounting and engineering as well as employers, government officials and university staff.

They found foreign work experience was increasingly important to students and employers in countries such as China. However, many students were unhappy with their opportunities to gain practical experience in Australia before returning home, and said they lacked the contacts of their domestic peers.

“Students come with certain expectations that they will get employment, particularly if they come in a skill shortage area, but that is often not the case,” Blackmore told World News Australia .

“They have to go out and find an employer who’s prepared to sponsor them, and that is very difficult,” she said.

The researchers argue the government, providers and companies must create more work experience opportunities, or risk losing enrolments. ”I think international students might consider going to other places where there are more opportunities for work placements,” said Gribble.

The findings follow vast improvements to post-study work rights introduced last November as part of reforms to stem an ongoing decline in overseas enrolments.

Bachelor degree students may now stay in the country and work for two years after graduation, master’s students for three years, and PHD students for four years. Professor Lesleyanne Hawthorne of Melbourne University said there was no “comparable offer from our competitors” and that problems may lie with individual students.

“Every country has its own labour market needs and it will be about the attractiveness of the international student who applies,” she said.

There have been other positive signs for international job seekers, according to a Graduate Careers Australia survey in February. While the percentage of employers recruiting international graduates fell nearly 15% after the financial crisis and stayed flat in 2010, last year saw a climb of almost 12%.

However, employers admitted they were sometimes deterred from hiring foreign graduates due to concerns about retention or because they lacked citizenship.

Australia’s overseas student market is estimated to contribute around $15.7 billion to the economy. However enrolments have been hit by a persistently high dollar and visa concerns and fell in the year to February to 46,379 (down 8.9%).

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