Recruiting international students as skilled migrants: the global 'skills race' as viewed from Australia and Malaysia

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Ziguras, Christopher and Law, Siew Fang (2006) Recruiting international students as skilled migrants: the global 'skills race' as viewed from Australia and Malaysia. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 4 (1). pp. 59-76. ISSN 1476-7724


The recruitment of international students as skilled migrants is increasing in many countries, and most notably in Australia, where the Commonwealth government's immigration and international education policies are now closely aligned. There are three factors that make international students attractive migrants. First, they increase the recruiting country's pool of highly trained workers, who are increasingly important for economic development. Second, most economically developed societies have low birth rates and ageing populations, and recruiting young people who are at the beginning of their working lives helps to sustain the number of working‐age adults needed to support the growing pool of retired elderly. Third, graduates of the recruiting country's own tertiary institutions are more readily employed than foreign graduates. Fourth, the prospect of migration gives some countries a marketing advantage in recruiting fee‐paying international students, which is particularly significant in countries in which education is a major export industry. This article examines the influence of these four rationales in shaping skilled migration and international education policies in Australia and Malaysia. Both countries experience sizeable outflows and inflows of skilled migrants, sometimes referred to as ‘brain drain’ and ‘brain gain’ respectively, and movement of people between the two countries has been growing steadily over the past 50 years. The article concludes that while both countries have export‐oriented international education policies, the differences between the two countries in the size and level of training of the workforce will lead them to pursue quite different approaches to international student migration. While Australia is forecasting a need to increase numbers of highly skilled migrants to sustain economic development, Malaysia has a large workforce whose level of training is being rapidly enhanced by the major expansion in the capacity of the tertiary‐education sector over the past decade. Malaysia will most likely aim to expand its highly trained workforce internally while Australia will increasingly look to international students, including those from Malaysia, as a primary source of new settlers.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1080/14767720600555087
Official URL
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1402 Applied Economics
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1604 Human Geography
Keywords ResPubID16895, international students, skilled migrants, Commonwealth government immigration and international education policies, economic development, fee‐paying international students, education as a major export industry, international education policies - Australia and Malaysia,
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