International student mobility from China and India – the influence of Australian immigration policy, and institutional and family factors on post-graduation destination outcomes

Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology
Higher education International education International students


Developed nations around the world are investing heavily in higher education, to develop their knowledge economy and their highly skilled labour force. International student mobility has experienced phenomenal growth over the past two decades, with these students considered the future of highly skilled migrants that are trained in the host country. Many developed nations are keen to attract and retain these international students.

The main purpose of this research is to examine the main factors influencing Chinese and Indian students in selecting Australia as the destination for their study and the intentions post-graduation. It addresses the literature gap of the influence of meso-level factors, for example parents on such student migration, as well as the difference in impact of micro, macro and meso factors on various student nationalities, and aims to understand their decisions from the lens of migration theories.

This study’s results show that Chinese and Indian students are motivated differently, and that the meso-level factors significantly influence their decision-making. They also suggest the role of Australian migration policy has diminished, especially in the case of Chinese students; although Indian students remain influenced by the availability of post-study work options in Australia. This research also investigated Chinese and Indian students’ decision-making post-completion of their studies in Australia. These results reveal that while most Chinese students remain intent on returning home post-studies, many Indian students change their intentions, largely influenced by meso-level factors and the availability of post-study work rights.

The study’s overall findings contribute to the understanding of the complex reasons behind Chinese and Indian students’ decision towards studying in Australia and their intentions post-graduation. In particular, the research offers insights into the international student mobility from the lens of migration theories.

This research also has direct implications on policy setting at the national, state and institutional levels in Australia. These include a growing focus on the reputation and global rankings of Australian institutions, the employability of their graduates, labour market access, better engagement with meso-level factors like parents, and transnational education.

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