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As international students from a range of countries return to Australia in pre-pandemic levels, new research demonstrates it is post-study work programs that are helping drive the rebound. 

The Emerging Futures 3 study, conducted by global education specialists IDP Education in March 2023, reveals that competition between destination countries is fierce, with over a third of students considering study in three or more of the top countries, and 63 per cent of students globally stating that post-study work is the main or an influencing factor in where they study.  

The survey, which collates the views of more than 20,000 prospective and current international students, shows that, globally, post-study policies area key influencing factor for students from a diverse range of countries, including Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Pakistan, China and India.  

Specifically for Australia, students from Pakistan, the Philippines, China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam were mainly influenced by post-study work rights.  

The research shows students are very interested in the opportunity to gain relevant experience. This is of greater concern than how many years they can stay in Australia after they finish their courses, which still remains a key factor. Sixty-four per cent of students said the opportunity to gain experience is the most enticing factor of post-study work rights while 52 per cent said it was the length of the stay that is most attractive.  

Joanna Storti, IDP Connect Commercial Director APAC, said that in light of the new findings there is greater urgency for the international education sector to advocate for international students with Australia’s employers. 

“We all know what an incredible asset international students are to our communities, and it is pleasing to see Australia’s post-study work policies are helping to welcome students back to our shores. However, there is much more work to be done to raise awareness of the valuable contribution students make as employees and to improve access to work opportunities,” Ms Storti said. 

“We also know there are other areas of growing concern for students like the lack of accommodation and increasing cost of living, and the research reinforces this with half of international students reconsidering their decision to study overseas due to rising costs.” 

Emerging Futures 3 also identified that post-study work helps attract students from a range of countries – not just one or two dominating nations. Australia continues to be the top choice for students from Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand. 

At a global level, the percentage of survey respondents that rated Australia as the most attractive destination fell by two percentage points, but the country remained in second position behind Canada. In good news for the US, it is up three percentage points, and is the third most attractive destination among survey respondents. Meanwhile, the UK has dropped two percentage points and is in fourth position. 

Simon Emmett, IDP Connect Chief Executive Officer, said the research highlights that competition for international students at a destination level is at an all-time high. 

“With most countries experiencing a strong post-pandemic recovery of international students, our research findings on global choice show it is still all to play for, with the US in particular boosting its attractiveness,” Mr Emmett said. 

“Post-study work opportunities are proving to be an important lever in attracting international students. It is critical that governments support these policies and as a sector we focus on supporting quality career pathways. Half of all respondents also told us that they have never travelled abroad before, highlighting the responsibility and duty of care we all have. IDP will continue to work with the sector to understand the findings and to ensure students have the information and support they need to achieve their ambitions.”

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Jonah Duffin
Jonah Duffin19 April 2023