The Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCCLM) has partnered with leading Australian universities to advocate for visa policy reform for international students, to help address the nation’s workforce crisis.

The newly formed alliance welcomed the Albanese Government’s recent announcement regarding changes to post-study work visa arrangements following the Government’s jobs and skills summit, as an important first step. These changes will enhance Australia’s international student market competitiveness and contribute to addressing labour shortages.

The CCCLM, the Group of Eight Universities, University of Tasmania and Charles Darwin University called for automatic extensions to post-study visas for Bachelor, Masters and PhD students, in a bid to address Australia’s skilled labour shortage and reinstate the country’s reputation as a global leader in international student experience.

The alliance met with Parliamentarians in Canberra this week and presented their advocacy paper to Government. The document will provide input into the Government’s working group, also announced last week, which will advise on the development of the post-study visa changes and related issues.

The alliance is also advocating for High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, which would permit international student graduates to stay in Australia (to apply, you must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university in the past five years).

These changes would aim to make it as simple as possible for talented graduates to fill workplace shortages and supplement the existing Global Talent Visa Program and post-graduate study rights access.

International education is one of Australia’s largest exports and essential to our future prosperity and global reputation.

As a result of the pandemic, International Higher Education Australia estimated the value of international education to have almost halved from $40 billion in 2019, to $22 billion in 2022.

CCCLM deputy chair Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, said there were multiple advantages to retaining international students after they had completed their studies.

“We are acutely aware of the labour shortages in our country. Keeping international students here post-study would be an immediate boost to available labour for critical jobs in key sectors,” Lord Mayor Capp said.

Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said Australia was at a critical juncture with respect to skills needs – facing serious challenges to maintaining capacity in essential areas of workforce need as identified by the Jobs and Skills Summit.

“We can’t ignore the international competition for talent, with governments in the UK and US pulling policy levers to attract academic and research leaders in areas critical to economic growth.

“The Government’s changes to post study work rights combined with a high potential individual visa to target high achieving graduates will strengthen Australia’s pipeline of skilled labour, boost productivity and our economic prosperity.”

Quote attributable to the City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore:

“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, over 35,000 international students studied within the City of Sydney each year, contributing not only to our local economy but also our rich cultural and social diversity,” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said. “International students create vital links between our city and their home countries, becoming life-long ambassadors for Australia as a place to visit, to learn, and to work.”

“We need to ensure Australia reclaims its reputation as a destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students. By providing students with the opportunity to stay here once their studies are over – to use their skills and expertise to gain meaningful employment – we will not only attract more international students, we’ll help meet our labour market needs.”

“Economically, attracting more international students encourages growth in our education sector, which is one of our largest export earning industries. Growing our population also creates more customers, resulting in higher consumption growth, which we need after our nation’s borders were closed for so long.”

Australia’s international student market -CCCLM and Go8 September 2022