The Migration Review outlined the new decree that, within a package of measures to tighten the post-study work visa, the maximum eligible age to be able to apply for one would lower significantly.
“The maximum eligible age for a Temporary Graduate visa will be reduced to 35, repositioning the visa as a product for early career professionals who can contribute to the Australian economy over a longer period,” the Migration Strategy document – published in December – read .
Ly Tran, a professor in the school of education at Deakin University, told The PIE how harmful this particular rule could end up being – both for certain demographics and for Australia’s standing.
“The new rule goes against the national desire to tackle skills shortages and attract talent such as PhD graduates with high-level skills and expertise,” Tran explained.
The PIE reached out to the Home Affairs department to obtain the information on the average age of Graduate visa applicants.
“The government is recalibrating student and graduate visa settings to support both the education sector and Australia’s migration needs.
“These changes will help international students to have a positive educational experience in Australia and support international students with the skills Australia needs to transition the workforce and help drive our economic productivity,” a representative told The PIE.
The government did not respond to the request for the information of the average age of TGV applicants.
However, Mark Lucas, senior VP of global partnerships and business development at the HTI agency, said that in reality, the impact would not be that severe – especially not on students from Australia’s biggest source country, China.
“The vast majority of PG students in mainstream ranked universities are from the People’s Republic of China, and are in the new age bracket – so there’s no real impact there,” Lucas explained to The PIE.
“For South Asia, the next major market, it might impact some private and lower ranked universities, but visa refusal rates have been climbing from that market and was being used as a blunt tool to control the flow of students – this stops it at the source,” he continued.
StudyMove’s annual look at the market also confirmed that visa refusal rates were rising in various South Asian countries, including India and Nepal.
Another demographic that may be disproportionately affected are graduates with carer responsibilities and mothers who wish to undertake postgraduate study – as well as those returning to study after some time in the workforce, Tran warned.
“The development of the new Skills in Demand visa may provide graduates who have extensive work histories related to their area of studies with quicker pathway to permanency than the TGV,” the government representative suggested.
The point was also made by Lucas that the issue would remain in any case, especially for those with children. The government would still be “cautious about one working adult bringing in several dependants that have a direct impact on the Australian taxpayer if not balanced”, he said.
A joint surveyin 2022 by Deakin and the University of Adelaide showed 75% of international graduates said post-study work via the TGV was an “important factor in influencing their choice” of study destination.
“It’s likely that prospective students, especially those who will be over 35 by the time they finish their studies, will take into account the new age cap in making their decision,” Tran argued.
“[The new directive] allows time to review the impact of the previous policy”
But with various questions having been raised over the last year about the post-study work right system – with CEO of IEAA Phil Honeywood calling the setup a “ponzi” scheme – Lucas also questions whether the previous guidelines were effective enough.
“[The new directive] allows time to review the impact of the previous policy and to develop a truly sustainable policy that brings in diverse students from a wider range of countries to meet our immigration needs,” said Lucas.
Appealing to the human fallout of the new rule, Tran also noted that humanities and social science postgraduate research students were much more likely to be impacted.
“PhD candidates in humanities and social sciences are more likely to join the workforce for a period before undertaking their postgraduate research,” she said.
“Would it realistically turn people away from the idea of studying in Australia, knowing that they’d simply be too old to apply for PSW visas?”