Australia reverses age limit for post-higher education work streams

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has recently announced that the maximum age limit for post-higher education work visas will remain 50 years old for foreign PhD and master’s research degree students, after updating visa policy changes set to take effect on 1 July 2024.


Changes to past announcements

Last December 2023, an age limit of 35 years was proposed for all Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visas in line with the government’s Migration Strategy. This was later emphasised through an announcement in May outlining changes to the visa, stating that the maximum age for all post-study work streams under the Temporary Graduate program would be reduced from 50 to 35 years old, except for Hong Kong and British National Overseas passport holders.

In recent developments, however, the Department of Home Affairs has updated the proposed changes. Overseas graduates of PhD and research master’s programs shall be exempt from the age limit adjustment. Higher research degree recipients will still be eligible for Temporary Graduate visas under the Post-Higher Education Work stream (former Post-Study Work stream) until they turn 50. They will be allowed to stay in Australia for up to another three years, with an extra year or two available to graduates from India, Hong Kong and the UK. The 50-year cut-off will also remain for Hong Kong and British National Overseas passport holders regardless of their level of qualification.

Notably, the new 35-year age limit will still apply to graduates of taught master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees and vocational programs.


Post-higher education demographics

When the government announced the lower age limit, critics warned that the new rule would greatly impact the country’s pool of high-skilled foreigners. According to 2022 data from Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities, 51% of its PhD students were international, while 40% of its international doctoral graduates were aged 30 or up.

Moreover, international students dominate PhD enrolments in many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. According to statistics from the Department of Education, 65% of doctoral candidates in engineering and 63% in information technology (IT) came from outside Australia.


Positive sector response

The international education sector welcomes the reversal of the age limit for the Post-Higher Education work stream. Eligible graduates in this program often lean towards the older demographic, between early to mid-30s up to 40s, so the 50-year cut-off provides more opportunities for substantial work experience and valuable research outputs.


As the Australian government continues to make policy adjustments to balance the needs of the international education sector, stakeholders are hopeful to see more strides toward safeguarding the experiences and opportunities of foreign learners.

Stay updated on the latest developments for international students in Australia by reading our blog or getting in touch with our business development experts.

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