International migration is a volatile phenomenon influenced by a wide range of demographic, social, economic and political determinants and consequences at the global, regional and national level. Australia's formal migration program is long-standing and is currently administered by DIAC. The program changes over time in line with global events (e.g. Global Financial Crisis and humanitarian demands) and Australia's specific requirements (e.g. skill shortages/oversupply and the importance of the education industry to Australia's economy).
Student migration policy, as part of Australia's migration policy, has undergone many reforms and initiatives before, during and after the timeframe of this study(footnote 1) . For example: a major international marketing campaign to promote Australia's education and training services industry overseas was undertaken in May 1998; from July 2001, overseas students who met specific requirements were allowed to make onshore applications for permanent residency status on completion of their courses; April 2005 saw the lowering of student visa assessment levels; from May 2006, there was an increase in the base level of English language proficiency requirement; April 2008 saw the granting of students the right to work while studying; while in February 2010 a new, more targeted, Skilled Occupations List (SOL) was introduced. This last change to the skilled migration program included, as well as the SOL, a review of the points test used to assess applicants, and the potential to cap visa grants to people in particular occupations. These changes 'aimed to delink student visas from permanent migration status'(footnote 2) . Policy changes can be expected to continue into the future. The announcement of the Australian Government review of the student visa program in December 2010 is evidence of the focus on international students and migration.
It is clear that international students have been a key driver in the growth of NOM and therefore Australia's population over recent years. It is also clear that international students are playing a key role in the recent sharp decline in NOM estimates, where this decline is a combination of a decline in student arrivals and an increase in student departures.
The focus of this article has been discussion on those international students who contribute to net overseas migration and hence contribute to changes in the official estimates of the population of Australia that are produced by the ABS. It is hoped the analysis undertaken here provides an insight into the characteristics of these international students and is a useful resource for future research.
1 APH 2010, Overseas students: immigration policy changes 1997–May 2010, p various. <back
2 APH 2010, Overseas students: immigration policy changes 1997–May 2010, p 13. <back