New “Emerging Futures” research by IDP Education puts Australia in joint third place with the UK, behind Canada and the USA, while perceptions of quality and value for money also lag behind key competitors.
International students are looking beyond “borders reopening” when it comes to choosing their study destination. Canada remains the top destination of choice for one in four students (27 per cent), according to the latest research on student intentions from IDP, world leaders in global education services.
The 'Emerging Futures' research canvassed the views of more than 10,000 students found a complex picture of student intentions, as students prioritise return on investment and quality of education.
Following Canada in top spot was the USA (20 per cent), with the UK and Australia in joint third place (19 per cent). Among Indian students, Australia is in fourth place with only one in 10 (11 per cent) Indian respondents selecting the nation as the first-choice destination. For Chinese students, 21 per cent selected either the UK or USA as their first-choice destination, 18 per cent selected China itself and only 10 per cent selected Australia, marginally ahead of Canada.
As Australia struggles to recover from two years of lockdowns and institutions prepare to welcome international students back for the second semester of the academic year in July, it will be critical to understand what is motivating students and luring them away.
The 'Emerging Futures' study shows that the motivational factors that are driving student choice centre on the perceived quality of education available in the destination and the post-study work opportunities for international students, with 63 per cent and 52 per cent of respondents respectively selecting these factors as the reason they selected a particular country as their first choice.
There is a clear correlation between destination choice and perceptions of the competing destinations. While students perceive Australia to have good post-study work rights, perceptions of Australia’s quality of education lag behind that of the USA, UK and Canada, particularly among Indian and Chinese students.
In better news, perceptions of Australia and the likelihood to select Australia as a first-choice destination are significantly higher among students from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Unfortunately for Australian institutions, recent policy announcements have not helped to regain lost share. Students who had not selected Australia as their first-choice destination were asked if the December 2021 announcement increasing the length of stay for Master’s graduates from two to three years would convince them to rethink their decision. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents stated that they were not more inclined to consider Australia as their first choice because of the announcement.
Andrew Barkla, Chief Executive of IDP, commented that Australia still had work to do to rebuild its trust and reputation with students after two years of travel disruption.
“No one within the Australian education sector believed that the flow of students into Australia was like a tap that could be turned off without impacting on international student perceptions,” Mr Barkla said.
“Australia’s institutions were fully aware that the policy settings that have been in place for the past two years meant it would be difficult to simply ‘turn the tap back on’. However, even with this knowledge, this latest study makes sobering reading for Australian providers who have been working hard to support students throughout the disruption.
“Students have grown tired of waiting to return. Now Australia must reinforce a collective message around the world that it is open and welcoming students. Australia also needs to demonstrate that there are practical routes to post-graduate employment, and that international students form a valued and vital part of our communities.
“Australia has a unique offering and our institutions have continued to innovate and put students at the centre. By forging ahead with these positives, adopting data-informed strategies and working with trusted partners on the ground, Australian institutions have a real opportunity to turn the tide,” Mr Barkla said.
Download the Emerging Futures report.