International Education – Foreign Student – Value

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The value of international education and international students, tangible and intangible, is egregiously under – estimated by the application of a narrow ‘white nativist’ or politically opportunistic prism that ignores inconvenient facts and dynamics.

Many Australians of Anglo Irish heritage focus too much upon international students described as ‘immigrants’, their potential for permanent residency (with significant hurdles) and demands for same ‘foreign’ students to return home in support of their home country.

Conversely same qualifications are used by Australians internationally, many of the same gain other residency or even dual citizenship, yet there are no demands for the same e.g. to return home and/or pay back fees?

This dynamic is simply a reflection of increasing geographical and social mobility (taken for granted in the EU) for all in the developed and many in the less developed worlds for whom higher education and/or technical skills and languages improve their lives and others’.

Meanwhile too many narratives from our mono-cultural political, media and social elites seem about creating ‘us vs them’ for voters, and worse, deep seated Nativist or colonial ideology.

Global population is expected to peak mid-century whereby there may be increased competition for people, with sub-Saharan Africa being the only place with population growth and significant younger demographic cohorts.

Late news: The U.K. has announced the re-introduction of post graduate work visas for international university graduates.

Australia should try to keep more international students who are trained in our universities

Jihyun Lee – September 13, 2019 6.02am AEST

Australia’s education system takes almost one in ten of all international students
from countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD).

That’s according to the latest Education at a Glance report from the OECD.
But Australia should do more to retain some of those students after graduation or it
risks losing good talent overseas.

A degree of talent

The OECD report says Australia’s higher education sector is heavily reliant on international students. They represent about 48% of those enrolled in masters and 32% in doctoral programs.

This is partly due to a lack of interest among Australians in pursuing higher-degree study compared to other countries, about 10% in Australia versus 15% across OECD countries.

International students make up 40% of doctoral graduates in Australia, compared to 25% across OECD countries. That’s higher than the US (27%) and Germany (18%), the other two popular destinations for international students.

Australian students are not choosing some STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects as much as those in other OECD countries. For example, only 17% of adults (aged 25 to 64) with a tertiary degree had studied engineering, manufacturing and construction.

Other comparable industrialised countries such as Sweden (25%), Korea (24%), Japan (23%) and Canada (21%) are obviously doing better.  This trend appears to be getting worse because the proportion of new students entering STEM-related bachelor degree programs is lower in Australia (21%), compared to 27% across OECD and partner countries.

While the government here provides for up to four years of post-higher-degree stay for international students, it is inevitable that Australia faces a drain of foreign-born specialists who were educated in Australia.

In 2017, the Australian government granted permanent visas to only 4% of foreign students and temporary graduate visas to only 16% to live in Australia after completing their study. It is obvious then that many international students return home after they study in Australia.

What can the Australian government do?

We need to provide better incentives for those who complete a higher-degree program, especially in the STEM areas, to stay on in Australia.

The OECD’s report says people who studied information and communication technologies (ICT) and engineering as well as construction and manufacturing will continue to benefit greatly from strong labour-market opportunities everywhere in the world.

Australia can do better in attracting younger generations to be trained in the STEM area at higher degree levels. We then need to try to retain more of the foreign-born higher-degree holders rather than sending them back home.

Being afraid of an influx of Chinese or Indian students who will contribute to development of innovation and technological changes in this country should become a thing of the past.

Good news for Australia’s education

The Education at a Glance program aims to give an annual snapshot of the effectiveness of educational systems – from early childhood to doctoral level – across all OECD and partner countries.

At almost 500 pages, the 2019 report does contain some good news for Australia. Australia spends a higher proportion of its GDP (based on public, private and international sources) on education, 5.8% compared to the OECD average of 5.0%.

The Australian education system strongly promotes compulsory education. Our 11 years of compulsory education is the longest among OECD countries. That means each student gets 3,410 more hours over the period of compulsory education.

When it comes to people going on to further studies, the proportion of tertiary-educated Australians has increased over the past ten years. It is now 51%, compared to the OECD average of 44%.

On graduation, the average debt for Australian students is US$10,479 (A$15,243), one of the lowest among OECD countries. It’s about half that of New Zealand US$24,117 (A$35,080), which has similar tuition fees and financial support systems.

Education pays off

Australian young adults with vocational qualifications have a higher employment rate (83%) than the OECD average (80%).  Although earning power is still greater for those with a higher level of educational attainment, the financial return from more schooling is far smaller in Australia.

Compared to those with upper secondary education, full-time tertiary-educated Australian workers earn 31% more, compared to 57% more on average across OECD countries. Adults with a master’s or doctoral degree earn 52% more, compared to 91% more on average across OECD countries.

The OECD attributes this trend partially to good labour-market opportunities for those with upper secondary vocational qualifications.  The OECD also notes that the average employment rate for Australian tertiary-educated adults is 85%, only two percentage points higher than the 83% for those with a vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary qualification. This is one of the smallest differences across OECD countries.

For more articles and blogs about international education, immigration, population growth and white nationalism click through.

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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.

 

Website Design for Digital Marketing and SEO

Websites are often viewed in simple functional terms and only for the IT or web team to tinker with, however this view is misguided and wrong.  Interesting article about how web design has progressed from online brochures into something more sophisticated:

 

A nostalgic journey through the evolution of web design. September 4, 2018 4.35pm AEST

The World Wide Web was invented almost 30 years ago by Tim Berners Lee to help people easily share information around the world. Over the following decades, it has changed significantly – both in terms of design and functionality, as well its deeper role in modern society.

Just as the architectural style of a building reflects the society from which it emerges, so the evolution of web design reflects the changing fashions, beliefs and technologies of the time.

Web design styles have changed with remarkable speed compared with their bricks and mortar cousins. The first website contained only text with hyperlinks explaining what the web was, how to use it, and basic set-up instructions. From those early days to the present, web design has taken a long and winding journey.’

 

Further, it is not just about design by an IT person nor appearance by a graphic designer but also digital or ICT, architecture and purpose, with the latter making the web and related central to organisational product or purpose, and visible presence.

This is exemplified by websites becoming both shopfronts and resource repositories which can be visible globally, often precluding a physical presence.  Functions of websites impacting design, include: digital marketing or SEO, social media junction, intranet, HR systems, training resources, e-commerce, finance or accounting including inventory, billing etc., media and communications.

Nowadays websites and digital need to be viewed as dynamic and living systems informed by internal and external stakeholders according to the SDLC systems or software development life cycle, for ongoing management and review of all organisational aspects.

For a related article on how to develop a website for digital marketing and SEO click through.

 

International Education Market Research

Recently there have been articles about international students’ motivations and well-being on their journey of discovery through international education, a significant industry.

Such articles are relevant in that they do not criticise or dog whistle international students by describing them as ‘immigrants’ or suggesting they purposely short visa and immigration systems for long term or permanent residency.

In addition to reflecting increased international mobility and prosperity in developing nations, such insights should be imperative for all service-based marketing, especially digital carrying word of mouth or WOM.

Word of mouth is the most influential marketing channel as it is based upon experience of friends, family and peers with a product or service, the most trusted channel.

The message for marketers in any industry, especially services, is never make assumptions or rely upon headline or indirect data, but your customers too.  Marketing brand, reputation etc. requires constant feedback, monitoring of well-being and word of mouth while leveraging the same authentic feedback via social media, couched within a digital marketing strategy.

 

What we know about why Chinese students come to Australia to study

Hannah Song in The Conversation:

In 2016-17 Australia’s third largest export, international education, leapt from A$23.6 billion to a record high of A$28 billion. Within the higher education sector, the highest intake of international students is of Chinese origin.

Behind these statistics are the individual stories and aspirations of Chinese students’ parents who provide them the financial resources and emotional support. Yet, we know so little about why it matters so much to their parents, and what long-term impacts overseas study has on them and their families when they return home…

….Focusing on a shifting landscape of education in Shanghai, I undertook a longitudinal pilot case-study of four bilingual kindergarten-secondary schools to investigate the aspirations Chinese middle-class parents have for their children’s education.

….If Australia is to remain a destination for world-class education, we need to be far more self-reflective and long-sighted about what Australian international education offers: global citizenship and transnational mobility. We need to listen to the voices of an increasing middle-class in China.’

Student journey through international education

International Students (Image copyright Pexels)

‘’It’s stressful being an other’: The mental health woes of international students

Emily Baker in The Conversation:

Moving to Australia has, in Daniel Kang’s words, been a mix of challenges and little blessings. The Australian National University student has found room to breathe and develop. Walks through the abundant bush help clear his head. Generally, the experience has exceeded his expectations.

But moving from Singapore to Canberra has also carried difficulties. It can be stressful being an “other”, he said. The 22-year-old has at times been very lonely…

The most recent student experience survey from the federal government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching found undergraduate international students rated their experience at Australian universities 75 out of 100 per cent – slightly below the 79 per cent awarded by domestic students.

But separately, many international students report stress. They report social isolation. The very fact of being an international student in Australia – the experience of being alone in a new country, subject to financial pressures, navigating a new culture, and adjusting to a new academic system – is considered to make an individual at greater risk of mental ill-health.’

 

Any institution, business or organisation that neglects its existing customers to inform quality and marketing strategy development, maybe asking for trouble while relying upon PR and sales?

In the case of international education the most valuable resources are accessible onshore and on campus, i.e. enrolled students and their networks.

Focus Group Feedback – Qualitative Data Analysis – Grounded Theory & Coding

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Focus Group Feedback – Qualitative Data Analysis – Grounded Theory & Coding

 

Potential respondents must have the ethics of research explained before any interview or feedback, not only verbally at start of an interview or related interaction, but inclusion on a briefing document explaining study and research, storage of data, along with ethics.

Focus Group Interviews

 

Focus interviews, individual or via a group, based on psychoanalysis, can be very adaptable, allow expression of body language, in addition to concept checking or informal communication which would be precluded by the written form.  However, there are disadvantages, interviews can be very time consuming to conduct, transcribe, code and analyse when using open questions to elicit perceptions, attitudes and experience of the research area, plus they can be subjective or prone to bias.  On the other hand, they are useful to explore same perceptions etc., then importantly, used to inform a valid survey or data collection instrument or further research (Bell, 2005).

 

Types of interview include structured e.g. answering survey face to face, semi-structured and unstructured, the latter allows good quality data to be offered.  The unstructured interview can offer an opportunity for an industry person to explain and elaborate on issues that have emerged organically, that would have otherwise remained unknown and ignored (Ibid.).

 

Focus Group Interview Feedback Respondents

 

The ‘Focus Respondents’ for this research study included two former international students now professionals with digital literacy, two international education marketing (and admissions) managers for large multinational education providers and two more senior ‘Focus Respondents’ who manage within international education, but without formal marketing background.

 

‘Focus Respondents’ were asked open questions based upon the literature and round the information search process with any critical issues, key words, processes or phenomenon to be expressed, not in long narrative for full transcription, but abbreviated for notes and action coding.

 

It was explained to focus respondents, to give them structure or context, that the general focus was decision making behaviour process, represented by a five-stage model:

 

Purchase Decision Making Model

 

Five Stage Purchase Decision Behaviour Model or Process (simplified)

  • Recognition of Need
  • Information Search
  • Evaluation of Alternatives
  • Purchase Decision
  • Post Purchase Behaviour

(Kotler & Keller, 2012).

 

From same focus interviews regarding information search or discovery process, the research elicited factors or latent variables, then quantified by survey to analyse for significance of these factors in ‘optimal marketing and communications’.  These factors and construct can then be used to develop an information seeking construct and a useful template for industry.

Next step is to deliver survey to a hopefully significant sample population to then ground any marketing strategy development.

 

Reference List:

 

Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project. (4th Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

 

Kotler, P. & Keller, K. (2012) Marketing Management. (14th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education – Prentice Hall.