2006 – Response to recommendations of the Evaluation of the General Skilled Migration Categories Report

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is the national peak body representing Australia’s 257,700 postgraduate students. These students are engaged in both coursework and research programs and include over 84,600 international students.

CAPA welcomes the invitation to respond to the recommendations in the Evaluation of the General Skilled Migration Categories report by Dr Bob Birrell, Professor Lesleyanne Hawthorne and Professor Sue Richardson.

Whilst CAPA recognises the importance of protecting local graduates who are competing in the employment market, we are concerned that some of the recommendations made will adversely affect international postgraduate students, both in the time taken and the financial commitment needed to acquire permanent residency. For example, CAPA imagines that there will be a time and cost imposition to international students for the implementation of requisite English language courses. As it is, many overseas students find it difficult to meet the points criteria for permanent residency now and these recommendations will make this goal that much harder.

CAPA welcomes the proposed change to English language ability criteria that raises the IELTS score from 5 to 6 with extra points for a score of 7. However, CAPA believes that if universities continue to allow students to enrol without meeting the requisite English language ability criteria, they must provide the appropriate training to enable these students to have the necessary communication skills to work in a professional Australian workplace. CAPA
considers this to be the university’s inherent duty of care obligations under the ESOS Act.

CAPA is concerned about the protection available to international postgraduate students who must undertake work experience. Under the recommendations being considered, a pathway to permanent residency requires international students to work 12 months full-time in an area of their nominated occupation. We are concerned that proper safeguards may not exist in current workplaces and that some employers may take advantage of international students and not provide them with the appropriate training, pay rates and work conditions. We believe that if international postgraduate students have a grievance against their employer they may not report this for fear of having their visa cancelled.

In regard to a ‘professional year’ as another pathway to permanent residency, how will it be ensured that the international postgraduate student receives the necessary skills to enable them to successfully compete for jobs in the Australian workplace? There have been concerns in the past with accredited bodies such as the Australian Computer Society providing accreditation to masters degree graduates without providing the necessary training.

CAPA’s other concerns are that international students are subject to high costs for their postgraduate studies in Australia and many have dependents and are supporting family in their home country. Further cost imposts may reduce the attractiveness of Australia for postgraduate study. We believe that if these report recommendations are implemented without further extensive consultation with key stakeholders as to how these measures will be effectively implemented, the outcome will adversely effect on international postgraduate students. CAPA believes it is paramount that the government enforces systems of monitoring and compliance measures of international student service providers such as higher education institutions, industry accreditation bodies and Australian workplaces for the protection of one of Australia’s main customer groups – international students.