Level 4, 10 Moore St, Canberra ACT 2601
+61 2 5123 6700

Go8 submission to the Australia-India Education Qualifications Recognition Taskforce

Australia-India Qualifications Recognition Taskforce
International Division
Australian Government Department of Education

The Group of Eight (Go8), representing Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the Australia-India Education Qualifications Recognition Taskforce (the “Taskforce”) consultations. Please note that this submission represents the views of the Go8 network, and member universities may choose to make their own submissions.

This submission focuses on the broader strategic elements of the Australia-India relationship and how qualification recognition underpins  the broader partnership.  Our individual university members will comment on the details as outlined in the submission questions.

Please note that we are happy for this submission to be published in full.

The Go8 supports the Government’s efforts to deepen and strengthen our engagement with India, especially in a post-pandemic context.

International engagement is critical to maintaining the performance of high-quality, research-intensive universities such as the Go8, which collectively graduate over 110,000 students each year, and conduct around 70 per cent of the university-based research in Australia. High-quality, research-intensive universities – and the graduates and research they produce – are increasingly critical to the success and prosperity of the nation and competitiveness of the Australian workforce.

The COVID-related border closures of 2020 and 2021 laid bare the degree to which Australia relies on an influx of international talent, especially in key professions.

In 2020 international students accounted for 61 per cent of enrolments in Information Technology, 43 per cent in Engineering and Related Technologies, and 30 per cent in Architecture and Building.

International Higher Degree Research (HDR) students – or students studying for a PhD or masters by research – accounted for 56 per cent in Information Technology, 61 per cent in Engineering and Related Technologies, 44 per cent in Agriculture and Environmental Studies and 40 per cent in Natural and Physical Sciences.[1]

The fact is that without these students, and the ability to integrate them into Australian workforce following graduation – whether for the long or medium term – the current skills crisis and workforce shortages being experienced across Australian industry will  continue and worsen.

Indeed, the 2018 India Economic Strategy, (updated in 2021) identified education as the “flagship sector of the future” because of the way in which “education and training demand weaves its way through virtually every sector of the Indian economy”.[2] This is true for the Australian economy, where factors such as automation and increasing technological development will make the jobs of the future even more reliant on post-secondary education.

In a recent Go8 IT Industry Summit it was estimated that Australia will need an additional 42,000 VET or university-educated tech workers by the end of the decade. Indeed, tech company Atlassian has noted it is already having to look to countries such as India to fill its workforce needs, due to the workforce limitations in Australia.

This need to facilitate the flow of talent is reflected in a number of recent international agreements. The recently signed Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (AU-UK FTA) contains a dedicated innovation chapter, the first of its kind in an Australian context. This chapter is intended to accommodate rapid technological development and facilitate engagement on emerging technologies. It is supported by an Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot for innovation workers to enter Australia through a workplace exchange, and measures to facilitate the movement of students and recent graduates between the two countries. These include support for the recognition of professional qualifications and increased collaboration between accreditation and regulatory bodies.

This is also recognised to an extent in the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA), the first step towards a full bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. The AI-ECTA includes provisions to promote the reciprocal exchange of knowledge, with measures to extend some post study work rights for Indian graduates holding an Australian qualification.[3]

And extended post study work rights for international graduates of bachelors, masters and PhD qualifications in areas of verified skills shortages was one of the major outcomes of the Government’s September Jobs and Skills Summit.[4]

The Go8 supports measures that can be taken across Government to facilitate the mobility of international talent into Australia.

Qualifications recognition is an important pre-requisite for the successful implementation of mobility agreements.

The Go8 also supports the work of the Taskforce in seeking to improve policy settings for the recognition of Australian and Indian qualifications, guided by quality considerations and international principles in qualifications recognition.

However, to obtain the full benefit of international mobility, graduates also need to be able to practice their skills within the Australian workforce. Research has suggested that one of the barriers to international graduate employment is a lack of understanding amongst Australian employers about visa conditions. This has been highlighted by Monash University’s Dr Thanh Pham who has noted that “[employers] make the assumption that international students cannot stay in Australia for long and are unaware of other visa pathways like bridging and residency visas. [5] Consequently, a campaign to promote the value and ability to access this pool of international talent could assist both Australian employers and international graduates to gain the greatest benefit from their education. International graduates from home countries across the Indo-Pacific also potentially offer a valuable resource to companies looking to diversify offshore.  

The Go8 recommends that the Taskforce consider how work rights and the benefits of employing international graduates might be promoted to Australian employers.

Yours sincerely

VICKI THOMSON
CHIEF EXECUTIVE


[1] https://www.education.gov.au/higher-education-statistics/student-data/selected-higher-education-statistics-2020-student-data-0. 2020 is the most recent year for which data is currently available.
[2] https://www.dfat.gov.au/sites/default/files/minisite/static/07db88b0-d450-4887-9c90-31163d206162/ies/pdf/dfat-an-india-economic-strategy-to-2035.pdf
[3] https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aifta/australia-india-ecta-outcomes/australia-india-ecta-benefits-australia-overview#tourism-and-education
[4] https://ministers.education.gov.au/clare/post-study-work-rights-international-students-boost-skills
[5] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-19/international-students-unhappy-with-career-opportunities/100837312