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Joint media release: PhD students must be exempt from changes to TGV age limit

09 February 2024

The Group of Eight and Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations incorporated (CAPA)

Australia’s capacity to attract talented global researchers will be undermined by proposed changes to the Temporary Graduate Visa (485) as outlined in the Government’s recently released Migration Strategy.

Reducing the age limit for eligibility for the Temporary Graduate visa from 50 to 35 years will have significant consequences for Australia’s international PhD student intake – an important pipeline of highly skilled migrants – and negatively impact Australia’s permanent migration program.

The Group of Eight (Go8) and Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) are urging the Government to exempt PhD students from TGV changes and leave age eligibility at 50 years for this cohort.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said PhD students were integral to Australia’s research and innovation sectors.
“Maintaining a supply of highly skilled talent through international PhD students who choose to study, work and live in Australia, is essential to keep our domestic industries at the forefront of innovation and the nation competitive. It is also critical for the success of government priorities which depend on access to expert research and skilled talent in areas of high global demand.”

In 2022, the Go8, which educates 165,000 international students both on and offshore, enrolled 28,986 PhD by research students (49 percent of all PhD students in Australia), of which 11,938 (51 percent) were international. In 2022, 40 percent of international PhD students in Australia were 30 years of age or older.

“Admission into PhD programmes requires extensive academic and often industry experience. Given that completing a PhD in Australia takes four years or longer depending on the research project, this change means many international graduates will not qualify under the new TGV age limit.

“Exempting PhD students will have a minimal impact on Australia’s migration system in terms of overall numbers but will protect the future of Australia’s research and innovation leadership pipeline,” Ms Thomson said.

National President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Errol Phuah, said the policy change would influence the decision-making of prospective international PhD students, who have various global options for their PhD studies.

“Competition for talented global researchers is fierce and competitor countries are increasingly offering incentives to attract the world’s best and brightest. Australia will fall behind as a preferred destination for research as a result of this measure.”

The Group of Eight represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, all ranked in the world’s top 100. Go8 universities under undertakes 70 percent of all Australian university-based research, investing $7.7 billion annually into R&D.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is the peak body representing more than 467,000 postgraduate students (domestic and international) in Australia.

Contact:       Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155
                      Errol Phuah, CAPA National President (Caretaker) on +61 431 545 167