International education, student migration and government policy: a comparative study of Australia and New Zealand
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This research sought to understand the relationship between international education, student migration and government policy from the experiential perspectives of international students and education professionals on the development of policies linking study and migration in Australia and New Zealand. The two research questions posed by this study were ‘how the development of policies linking study and migration in Australia and New Zealand compared from 1998 to 2010’, and ‘how the policy development impacted international students in their transition to permanent residence’. These two research questions gave this thesis a two-part structure: the first part provided a comprehensive comparison of the development of international education and skilled migration policies in Australia and New Zealand, with particular reference to the pathways from study to permanent residency that both countries have offered since the late 1990s; the second part provided insights into how the research participants experienced the development of policies that linked international education and skilled migration in each country. This research used Considine’s policy system as an analytic instrument to draw distinctions between policy developments in Australia and New Zealand, whose respective policy systems displayed dissimilarity of policy players and considerations. While document analysis was used to establish key understandings of the development of policies linking study and migration in both national contexts, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were adopted as the primary research method to gather information on the research subject from the perspective of the research participants. Twenty-four international students and sixteen education professionals were recruited to participate in these interviews. A clear linkage between international education and student migration was identified by the student participants and education professionals in this study, and the policy link between international education and skilled migration was found to play an important role in informing international students’ decisions to apply for permanent residence in the country where they had chosen to study. Although the policy link between international education and skilled migration applied in both countries, there were significant differences between Australia and New Zealand in their approaches to managing international students’ transition to permanent residence. Furthermore, the approaches taken by the governments of Australia and New Zealand in managing changes to the policy setting were found to be very different. This divergence of approach was largely attributed to dissimilar types of immigration legislation in Australia and New Zealand. Their differences were reflected in the experiences of the development of policies linking study and migration as reported by the research participants. Experiences of adverse effects and confusion, which resulted from significant and abrupt changes to policy in Australia, contrasted with the more positive experiences reported by research participants in New Zealand, where minor and progressively implemented policy changes occurred. In the light of changes in the policy environment, the respective policy settings in Australia and New Zealand became increasingly comparable in effect. In both countries, overseas students were obliged to transition to permanent residence via employment participation rather than by direct skilled migration. Subsequently, meeting the skilled employment requirement emerged as the key determining factor in that transition; since this development, it has become increasingly difficult for former students to obtain permanent residence through the policy setting. This research undertook an interpretive approach to examining the development of policies linking study and migration from the perspective of international students and education professionals, as policy actors who have not been included in previous research. The incorporation of their viewpoints into the extant knowledge contributed to a renewed appraisal and understanding of the development of policies that linked international education and skilled migration in Australia and New Zealand. This approach distinguished this research from previous studies in this field, and the documentation of the subjective experiences of actors in the policy system has enriched the literature of the relationship between international education, student migration and government policy.