Importance of International Student Satisfaction in Marketing Communications

IEAA International Education Association of Australia has released a report by Ravichandran Ammigan PhD and Debra Langton looking at four dimensions of the student experience arrival, learning, living and support services; an extract of the report follows below.

In summary, the very useful report finds important to focus upon satisfied students who then spread positive word of mouth to prospective students; this is supported by previous research.

However, the use of the traditional expression ‘marketing materials’ does not seem to match the language of international students who are ‘digital natives’ and would most likely use social media under the umbrella of digital marketing.  Further, related to marketing, and contrary to the report, Australia does have issues in developing diversity outside of PRC and India, for which effective digital marketing system (not a one off strategy) should be a solution.

Nonetheless, it does focus upon the need to have students as central in marketing and one could suggest that in addition to maintaining quality for satisfied students, also involving students in creating customer generated media that can be used in digital marketing.

International student experience in Australia

In today’s increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain international students, it is critical that higher education institutions stay current on student perceptions, preferences and experiences with various aspects of the university environment. Ensuring students have the right level of support and resources can contribute to their academic, social and cultural success. It can also directly influence their overall institutional satisfaction and whether they would recommend their institution to prospective applicants.

This paper investigates the experience of international university students in Australia with respect to arrival, learning, living and support services. It is based on previous research by Ammigan and Jones (2018) and uses data from the International Student Barometer (ISB), to examine the relationship between student satisfaction and institutional recommendation for over 21,000 international students at 34 Australian institutions.

This paper provides guidance for university administrators and support staff on how to adjust and improve resources and services for international students, which can be an important component for enhancing institutional recruitment and retention strategies.

International students in Australia

As with other leading destination countries around the world, the higher education student population in Australia is culturally diverse, which presents opportunities for both international and domestic students to interact with peers from different cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds (Arkoudis et al., 2013).

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training (2017), more than 600,000 international students chose Australia in 2017. This is a record high and represents a 13 per cent increase since 2016. International students now make up more than a quarter of all students at certain universities.

In 2017, the international student sector generated over AUD30 billion, making it the country’s third-largest export (ICEF Monitor, 2017). It is predicted that Australia will overtake the UK to become the world’s second highest destination for international students in 2019 (Marginson, 2018).

International student satisfaction Improving student satisfaction is a major goal for universities – a satisfied student population can be a source of competitive advantage with outcomes such as student retention, recruitment and alumni relations (Arambewela & Hall, 2009). Student satisfaction, which generally results from an evaluation of a student’s educational experience, occurs when actual performance meets or exceeds expectations (Elliott & Healy, 2001). In recent years, there has been a growing interest from international educators to gather and utilise international student satisfaction data as a way to influence campus change and strengthen support services for this community (Yu, Isensee, & Kappler, 2016).
This is not surprising as the international student experience can be a critical recruitment and retention strategy for providing a high-quality education and remaining competitive in the global student market and world rankings (Shah & Richardson, 2016).

The Australian Government’s National Strategy for International Education 2025 recognises the importance of student experience. Goal 2 outlines a number of actions that expressly address the delivery of supports that:

  • meet or exceed student needs
  • build capacity for employment; and
  • encourage a strong international student voice to inform continuous improvement.

A study on the attitudes, goals and decision-making processes of over 67,000 prospective
international students from 193 different countries found that course offerings was the main driver of student decisions on institution and location, with the expectation that the course of study would lead to career prospects (QS Enrolment Solutions, 2018).  Reviews and marketing materials showcasing the quality of teaching and experience of academic staff was the second most influential factor in choosing their institution.

The same study found that prospective students were most concerned about the cost of living and being able to afford their tuition fees. Having a relative or friend in a destination country and receiving information about local culture and customs can help reduce concerns and worries about going to study abroad and impact students’ choice of a particular location. Campus safety and a welcoming environment were also important factors in international students’ institutional and destination choice…..

Satisfied students are strong advocates

For international students, choosing an institution is based on a number of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which may influence them to leave their home countries to study abroad (Banjong & Olson, 2016). Such factors include knowledge and awareness of the host country, quality of education, institutional reputation, tuition and living costs, scholarship opportunities, safety and security, university environment, quality of life, visa requirements and post-graduation employment options
(Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).
Mavondo et al. (2004) suggest that institutional recommendation is closely related to satisfaction, where satisfied students are more likely to recommend their institution to potential or future students.  It is therefore important, especially from a marketing and recruitment perspective, for institutions to understand the factors that impact upon international student satisfaction which in turn drive propensity to recommend.

Reference:

Ammigan, R. & Langton, D (2018). The International student experience in Australia: Implications for administrators and student support staff. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA). Retrieved from www.ieaa.org.au

See original report via https://www.ieaa.org.au/research/student-experience IEAA Student Experience for full list of references.

For further articles and blogs on international education marketing, international students, information seeking journey, WOM word of mouth, student satisfaction and digital marketing click through.

 

Skills of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking and related literacies are viewed as essential soft, work or life skills to be taught and learnt by school students, apprentices, trainees, university students, employees and broader society, but how?

Following is parts of an article from The Conversation focusing upon argumentation, logic, psychology and the nature of science to help people understand and analyse the world round us in an age of fake news, conspiracy theories, anti-science and anti-education sentiments.

‘How to teach all students to think critically

December 18, 2014 2.27pm AEDT

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills.

The new course would be an elective next year and mandatory in 2016 with the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for education and students Shirley Alexander saying the aim is to give students some maths “critical thinking” skills.

This is a worthwhile goal, but what about critical thinking in general?

Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?

So what should any mandatory first year course in critical thinking look like? There is no single answer to that, but let me suggest a structure with four key areas:

 

Argumentation

The most powerful framework for learning to think well in a manner that is transferable across contexts is argumentation.  Arguing, as opposed to simply disagreeing, is the process of intellectual engagement with an issue and an opponent with the intention of developing a position justified by rational analysis and inference.

 

Logic

Logic is fundamental to rationality. It is difficult to see how you could value critical thinking without also embracing logic.  People generally speak of formal logic – basically the logic of deduction – and informal logic – also called induction.  Deduction is most of what goes on in mathematics or Suduko puzzles and induction is usually about generalising or analogising and is integral to the processes of science.

 

Psychology

One of the great insights of psychology over the past few decades is the realisation that thinking is not so much something we do, as something that happens to us. We are not as in control of our decision-making as we think we are.  We are masses of cognitive biases as much as we are rational beings. This does not mean we are flawed, it just means we don’t think in the nice, linear way that educators often like to think we do.

 

The Nature of Science

Learning about what the differences are between hypotheses, theories and laws, for example, can help people understand why science has credibility without having to teach them what a molecule is, or about Newton’s laws of motion.  Understanding some basic statistics also goes a long way to making students feel more empowered to tackle difficult or complex issues. It’s not about mastering the content, but about understanding the process.’

 

This article is from 2014, however it is unclear what Federal and State Education Departments are doing to include the explicit teaching and learning of critical thinking skills to students via curricula and syllabi?

For more articles about university teaching and learning skills click through.