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In recent years the Australian higher educational system has become more and more dependent on overseas students completing their PhD programmes in the country. Favourite fields include science, information technology and engineering. Yet when it comes to employment, Australia finds itself in a difficult situation, it has troubles keeping its freshly-graduated talents from leaving. It is not becasue the students want to go, it is due to the shortcomings of the permanent residency application policy. An increasing number of PhD graduates would like to actually change their temporary student visa to skilled migrant status enabling them to be employed. Trying to do just that, they face a contradictory situation.
When applying for permanent residency foreigners aiming to settle discover a list of critical skills on their application forms. Following the actual needs of the labour market, applicants are classified based on their skills. Soft skills do not seem to be highly valued and as a result some doctoral graduates need to wait for years to have a legal status start working in their fields. Conversely Australia needs scientists, researchers and academics to ensure the sustainability of its high quality academia. Lacking international professors, PhD programmes become less and less attractive for international students, which in turn threatens Australia losing a significant number of its doctoral graduates.
The new year saw new ammendments to the migration policy in the country. On 1 January 2010 changes relaxing the general skilled migration procedure were introduced. Among others these modifications simplify access to permanent residency for international graduates. Losing out international talents is clearly not an option in the global competition for excellent minds.