International Migration Research Centre

Document Type


Publication Date



Centre for the Study of Higher Education


Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences


This project examines the influence of English language proficiency (ELP) on workplace readiness and employment outcomes for international students and graduates who seek to work in Australia. The study adopts a mixed method approach involving a detailed review of relevant literature, semi-structured individual interviews and focus groups, and quantitative analyses of three statistical data sets — Australian 2006 Census data, Australian Education International (AEI) data from January 2002 to June 2008, and the former Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia (October 2005 and October 2006).

The qualitative data from the interviews enabled the authors to analyse the topic of investigation from several different perspectives including those of: international students and graduates; local (permanent resident or citizen) students and graduates; representatives of tertiary institutions and VET providers; recent offshore graduate job seekers with overseas qualifications; and Australian employers and regulatory bodies in five professional and three trade fields.

The findings show that international students employment outcomes are not as good as their Australian domestic counterparts and that they face greater challenges in finding full-time employment after graduation. While ELP is a key factor influencing their employment outcomes — particularly if graduates have low levels of ELP — the findings from this study show that ELP is not the only or principal issue.

Employers' first priority is to engage graduates with strong profession-specific skills and then to consider their ‘well-roundedness’. The ‘well-roundedness’ includes graduates’ personal characteristics and attributes, the diversity of their experiences and skills, as well as their ‘cultural fit’ into the workplace.

There is potential to respond to this expectation through policies and practices that support integrated approaches for enhancing ELP and workplace readiness within educational institutions, as well as increasing international students’ awareness of the value of the experiences and skills they can develop outside of their studies.