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Australia focused on international student enrollment growth

Australia focused on international student enrollment growth

Government and industry in Australia recognize the future economic, political and cultural importance of international student enrollment for the country. They work in tandem to support a broad-based strategy to increase enrollment by 30% by 2020. Let's say that again: 30% growth by 2020!

The report, Educating Globally, from the Australian government international education advisory counsel emphasizes the importance and growth potential and the growing competitiveness of the global education market. Today we will consider Australia's growth targets in light of worldwide market growth expectations. And we will look at how these conditions are relevant for U.S. academic institutions.

According to the report authors (written by the International Education Advisory Council chaired by Michael Chaney), Australia's recent historic rates of growth will slow as some institutions in the country reach their carrying capacity: “we estimate that the most likely growth path would see Australia hosting around 520,000 students in 2020, studying across all education sectors and contributing around $19.1 billion to the local economy.” This will represent an additional 118,000 students over the 2012 level of 402,000. The report also identifies the opportunity for "significant innovation and growth [that is] achievable in offshore and online education."

We were struck by two observations in the report in contrast to the U.S. The Australian government and industry appear to approach international student enrollment from a more comprehensive view of all institutions attracting international students ranging from language schools, vocational and higher education organizations. Graph 1 (below) displays a breakdown of the well established "pathway" thinking in Australia. As a nation, they are looking at how you attract international students and where the entry point is for these students prior to studying at higher education programs. The first pie chart below (Figure 1) shows that the entry point for about 40% of the students is higher education programs while about 30% begin with English language instruction (ELICOS) and 14 % at Vocational Programs (VET). Despite our myriad of non-profit academic associations and government entities, the U.S. does not seem to display a similar discipline for looking at the sector holistically. Second, the Australian report points out that only a small percentage of U.S. universities are sufficiently active in international enrollment leaving the competitive door open for Australian institutions to gain market share.By being well-organized as a country and taking a holistic view of the market, Australia just may eat the U.S.'s lunch.

Sources: AEI "Educating Globally"

Graph 1

Explanation: ELICOS=English Language Courses for Overseas Students, VET = Vocational Education Training
The report prioritizes the drivers of student choices in the following way:

  • Cost, career and global mobility are considered the most important.
  • Followed by such factors as the quality of teaching and content, safety, culture, support services, employment opportunities while studying.

The discussion of these decision drivers (report page 22) is further elaborated in the chapter "a positive student experience" (page 44) and offers more depth. These factors are key to developing marketing differentiation messaging and targeted recruitment plans. Nevertheless, the report makes an interesting observation for the worldwide market:

  • The number of internationally mobile students will double from 3.4 million students in 2009 to roughly seven million by 2020.
  • At least 50% of this growing number, or 3.5 million international students, are expected to seek an English language education either in an English-speaking destination country or an English language delivered program in a non-English speaking country.
  • Chart 2 below shows the increase in international students (first column left side), while the middle and right hand columns show two scenarios of the potential increase in seat capacity by country.
  • The report points out that Australia's competitor countries (U.S., U.K., and Canada) have a greater capacity to increase their intake of international students based on the ratio to domestic students. In Australia, international students account for 21.3 percent of total tertiary enrollment, compared with 16 % in the U.K., 6% in Canada and 3.5% in the U.S.
  • The U.S. clearly has the greatest ability to expanding capacity based on the sheer number of higher education institutions. The actions the U.S. takes over the next 8 years will have a global impact.
  • The report also mentions, but cannot quantify, the impact on international students' study plans coming from the development of MOOCs as well as institution in other non-English speaking countries ramping up their recruitment efforts. Both of these factors will have some effect on the supply of high quality education programs available to meet student needs.

Bottom Line: So here's the thing, any marketing effort is going to be stronger and win more customers when there is alignment among the stakeholders. We've all seen the research about what drives international students to select one location and school over another. Nothing surprising there. So who will win those students in the end? The study destinations that are able to align their messaging and the processes, i.e., deliver on the marketing messages. When the government establishes visa and employment processes that support study and career options for international students and the institutions clearly define and communicate the benefits of what they have to offer...it's so easy to say and so frustratingly hard to do.

Graph 2


Topics: Insights