Costs and work opportunities key for international students

Australian research highlights contrasting motivations of students and their parents, and the need to appeal to both groups

October 17, 2019
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The US remains international students’ destination of choice for the quality of its education, a survey has found, while Canada leads on affordability, safety, visa requirements and graduate work opportunities.

But New Zealand rivals Canada on access to visas and is catching the front-runner on employment availability, according to the research by educational services provider IDP.

The company quizzed almost 2,400 current and prospective students in July, in its latest exploration of the factors underpinning their choice of country, course and institution. The survey attracted similar findings to a parallel study last year, with affordability still an overriding concern – particularly for students eyeing Australia, the UK and the US.

Cost of tuition was the main impediment to study in the US, while people considering the UK were particularly deterred by the cost of living. Both factors topped the list of concerns regarding study in Australia, although perceptions of living affordability in the country have improved over the past two years, reflecting the Australian dollar’s declining exchange rate.

The survey also highlighted employment opportunities as a key determinant of international students’ choices. Those in Australia said the ability to work, both during and after their courses, was the least satisfactory aspect of their experience.

Satisfaction with post-study employment opportunities also declined in North America while rising in New Zealand, which has boosted work opportunities for foreigners who study outside Auckland. Perceptions of post-study work opportunities also improved in the UK, although it remains the least popular of the five destination countries on this measure.

The study also found that students were largely unconcerned about their personal safety in foreign study destinations, despite media coverage of gun violence in the US and this year’s Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.

But a survey of more than 700 parents, conducted by IDP and Australia’s trade agency Austrade, highlighted safety as the overriding consideration of the older generation. Parents were also worried that their children would be far from family and friends – an issue of little concern to students, who were more focused on job prospects and costs.

IDP Connect chief executive Simon Emmett said parents were more likely to influence where their children studied, while the latter determined what they studied. The surveys also found that parents were active researchers of educational opportunities – a contribution often unrecognised by their offspring.

“Our research has shown that parents and students are likely to meet with education agents together but conduct online research independently,” Mr Emmett said.

“This demonstrates the need for education providers to develop tailored information for both groups to ensure marketing materials do not neglect parents, who are important in the decision-making process.”

A report on both surveys has been released at the Australian International Education Conference in Perth. It acknowledges that the findings may have been skewed by the profile of the student respondents.

Half came from India, half were considering or were studying in Australia and New Zealand, and most were master’s students undertaking science, technology, engineering and mathematics or management-related degrees.

The surveyed parents, by contrast, were more likely to come from Indonesia, China or Latin America and to have children considering undergraduate study.

The research found that Australia was the most popular destination for South-east Asian parents, while those from the subcontinent, north Asia and Latin America preferred the US. The UK was third choice for all four groups.

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