Webinar #8: Where will international students come from?

In this week’s webinar, James Martin and Rob Lawrence were joined by John Molony, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) at Deakin University, to discuss the changing world of international student recruitment, mobility and engagement in this uncertain time.

From institutions balancing diversification with tried and tested markets, to recruiting when you can’t travel, this webinar takes a deep dive into exploring where future international students will come from.

The webinar begins with the hot topic of diversification, as Australia reduces its reliance on those markets that have dominated enrolments. James asks whether, as a sector, “we should prioritise diversification or retain the same patterns and behaviours that have enabled growth in the past?”

John asserts, “diversification is critical…we’re mindful of it, we’ve planned for it, we invest in it and we’re patient with it.”

Rob adds, “all new markets rely on the networks of people that are [in Australia], and that takes time to build.” As such, it is the responsibility of education providers to explore this diversification of the market sooner rather than later.

Regarding the recuperation of the sector, John analyses the polarising views being expressed. Some are expecting a ‘V-shaped’ recovery, but, as John explains, “I think we’ve fallen off a cliff, absolutely, and you don’t fall back up a cliff, you work your way back up a cliff. I think it’s going to be a ‘U-shaped return.” The emphasis will be on assessing progress within the next 6 months, to give a better sense of recovery.

In conclusion, John reiterates the importance of the relationships that Australia has built, both internationally and locally, in helping revitalise the sector following the pandemic.

“I just go back to all the relationships that we’ve established in higher education at all those levels – through the institutions, the organisations and the individuals. We’re going to have to draw on those deeply to ride it out.”

The following topics were covered:

  • Diversification versus retaining tried and tested patterns and behaviours to encourage growth in enrolments
  • Ensuring a safe and positive student experience for students from price sensitive markets
  • Challenges for agents and their recovery
  • Global issues helping/impeding the sector – what to look for
  • New innovations in destination marketing
  • Adapting the English language sector
  • Restoring mobility programme participation
  • Online learning and managing student expectations
  • Capacity issues and delivery challenges on campus
  • The fundamental shift in teaching students – opportunities and challenges
  • The greatest challenges for international students at this time and future responses
  • Lessons for the future

Webinar attendees were invited to participate in a poll with questions relating to the most pressing topics of the day, which returned varying results.

On the question of the importance of diversification of markets, a majority of 66% of participants highlighted it as a “very important” aspect of a post-COVID world, while 20% maintained the importance is “about the same as it is today.”

In relation to whether participants were confident that borders would reopen to international students for Semester 2, the majority, at 59%, were not confident.

Regarding the new hybrid model of starting studies offshore and then coming onshore at a later date, 71% votes that prospective students would find the situation “not preferable but workable”, with 12% voting that it would be “unworkable.”

The importance of virtual fairs and digital expos as an investment for student recruitment split voters, with 44% voting that they are “somewhat” important, and 40% asserting that “they’re very important.”

The questions were as follows:

  1. How important will diversification of markets be in a post-COVID world?
  2. Are virtual fairs and digital expos worth the time and money as a form of student recruitment?
  3. How confident are you that borders will reopen to international students post-July for a limited Semester 2 intake?
  4. How do you think the hybrid model of starting studies offshore and then coming onshore later will be received by prospective students?

View poll results