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John Wood, Navitas, University Programs Division

Education giant Navitas delivers pathways in five countries through its University Programs division and continued to expand during a tough FY2012. We talked to Executive General Manager, John Wood, about the Australian industry and new market opportunities.

The PIE: CEO Rod Jones said FY2012 was probably Navitas’s “toughest year”, largely because of the headwinds in the Australian industry. Do you think recovery really lies ahead for the Australian sector?

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"There's a need for a government communications campaign to rectify what’s out there as misconception"

JW: I most definitely do, the green shoots are most definitely there. Of course we’ve got a long way to go just because of the nature of what we’ve seen in the last two years. But we are seeing an improvement in applications. There’s no question in our mind that we’ve seen an improvement in the policy environment following on from the Knight Review and that will have significant benefits.

“There’s no question in our mind that we’ve seen an improvement in the policy environment”

The PIE: Have the changes of the Knight Review [a raft of government reforms to win back overseas students to Australia after a protracted slump in enrolments] been far-reaching enough? 

JW: I think the government intent is there but the challenge is always in implementation. The Knight Review has been very positive. We, because of our close relationship with universities, as well as lots of others in the sector and those in government, are still working through these changes.

And one of the things we’ve become aware of is the need for the government to conduct a communications campaign, particularly in key markets, to rectify what’s out there as misconception. We need to inform potential students of the changes, of the benefits of studying in Australia, and of course that the doors are open in Australia – that students are very welcome.

The PIE: The UK, where you have seven colleges, is also a tough market right now yet you still opened new ventures this year. Is the long term outlook positive for the UK?

JW: I think we’re seeing a lot of the visa issues in the UK settle down. We think that all of the regulatory change has been appropriate in terms of weeding out non-performers. The UK is still a very high quality destination – it still has brand Oxford and Cambridge and LSE. We see the changes, in parallel to Australia, still being bedded down and there have been some challenges. But the UK will continue to be popular.

“I think the government intent is there but the challenge is always in implementation”

The PIE: The University Programs division fared better in FY2012 than FY2011, although enrolments fell slightly. What are you doing to promote growth?

JW: Can I say that the base of what we do is predicated upon excellent student outcomes, and we’re very proud of that and that is absolutely key to where we want to be. We have fared better than others in the sector and that is due to student quality outcomes and the attention we pay students and their experience, and our close working relationship with our partner universities which are managing the challenges in key markets. So I think that’s an important backdrop to where we currently are and our renewed growth.

The PIE: So quality is helping you overcome market challenges?

JW: Well you can’t have the sustained growth, the attention of so many universities wanting to work with us, the satisfaction of our existing partner universities wanting to do more with us, if you’re not delivering fundamentally quality outcomes for students. So our partners have confidence in us, we take that confidence very seriously, and they trust us to deliver well-prepared students that will successfully graduate from their university and add to their reputation and their brand in the world. That’s partly why we fared better than others in Australia’s enrolment downturn and why we’re seeing an upturn.

The PIE: Does the UP division only offer pathways? And which of your courses are most in demand? [more>>]

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