International medical students and migration: the missing dimension in Australian workforce planning?

Lesleyanne Hawthorne and Jan Hamilton
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (5): 262-265.


Objective: To investigate the potential contribution of international medical students at Australian universities to the Australian medical workforce.

Design, setting and participants: A prospective survey in 2006–2007 of 619 international medical students in their final 2 years of undergraduate- and graduate-entry medical courses across eight Australian universities, followed by a 2009 survey of 88 international medical graduates of the University of Melbourne (most of whom were respondents of the earlier survey), assessing the correlation between students’ intended place of internship and their actual place of internship.

Main outcome measures: The survey respondents’ preferred internship location; the proportion of respondents who intended to remain in practice in Australia long term; and correlation between respondents’ intended internship locations and actual placements in their first postgraduate year.

Results: Of the 619 international medical students surveyed in 2006, 358 (58%) responded. Most planned to undertake Australian internships and seek permanent-resident status, although a third were undecided about their long-term plans. Nationality was a highly significant variable. Most preferred city rather than regional or rural training locations and expressed interest in migrating to Australia. The 2009 survey of the University of Melbourne’s 2008 medical graduates showed a high correlation between students’ plans in their last two years of study and outcomes in their first postgraduate year, with 73% accepting Victorian internships for 2009.

Conclusion: International medical students studying at Australian universities represent a substantial and highly acceptable medical workforce resource for Australia. Their requirement for internships needs to be considered in, and should influence, infrastructure planning.

  • Lesleyanne Hawthorne1
  • Jan Hamilton2

  • Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

Lesleyanne Hawthorne received a seeding grant of $25 000 from the University of Melbourne for the research reported in this article, and other health workforce studies.

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