The Australian Academy of Science has called for overseas science research students to be given access to special fast-tracked visas for postgraduate study at Australian universities.


In its submission to the Australian Government’s review of the student visa program, the Academy said senior scientists who wish to work in Australian institutions also should have easier access to visas.


“Every overseas PhD student represents a gain for Australian science,” said Australian Academy of Science Secretary for Science Policy, Professor Bob Williamson.


“Each post-graduate science student and each senior scientist who comes to study or work in this country contributes to the intellectual powerhouse of Australia, and each of them is a potential collaborative partner with our research organisations on their return home.


“International cooperation is increasingly critical to addressing major research challenges. It is the Academy’s view that Australia should do everything possible to ensure we encourage overseas science and technology research students to come here, rather than go to the US or Europe.”


The Academy proposes that students who wish to enter Australia to study for a higher degree in science, engineering, medicine or IT be sponsored by a university department and come under a separate visa category that recognises they are an asset to Australia rather than a ‘migration risk’.


These students represent just 2,000 of the 300,000 or so that come to Australia to study each year.


“They are a precious commodity - they are of the highest quality academically and are sought after by labs throughout the world,” Professor Williamson said.


“Research students should not be compelled to provide financial guarantees or be subject to visa delays or high visa fees. Those studying for a science-based PhD should also have the same work rights as Australian research students.


“It is to Australia’s benefit to encourage higher degree study by overseas students in Australia.”


The full submission is available at