According to IDP Education’s latest Emerging Futures research, Australia is “bouncing back” after the pandemic to become the second-most attractive study destination globally after Canada.
Collating the views of more than 11,000 prospective students, applicants and current students, the survey – released during the AIEC conference on the Gold Coast this week – showed that Canada remains top destination for 27% of respondents.
While the US has fallen as top destination from 20% of respondents in March to 18% in the latest survey in August, Australia has climbed among the perception of international students.
Over the six months between the surveys, Australia increased as top choice from among 20% to 25% of surveyed students.
“As we welcome students back, the opportunity for the Australian sector is to listen to what students want, which is clear career pathways and job opportunities during their studies, and to make sure their expectations are met when they arrive,” Andrew Wharton, client director of IDP Connect, said.
The survey also compared the experience of newly-enrolled students with prospective student expectations.
It found that prospective students were mainly concerned about balancing part-time work and study, not having enough money and adapting to a new culture and way of learning.
While 22% of current students said their expectations for financial support had not been met, experiences in Australia were generally “positive”, IDP noted.
Some 92% said the academic support they had received had met or exceeded expectations, and 87% said the same for the lifestyle they’d experienced.
“For the first time, we can see clear differences in the prospective student mindset compared to currently enrolled students. Our research series has shown students are incredibly determined and ambitious, but the new findings demonstrate that the onshore experience can be tough,” Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, said in a statement.
“The findings highlight the pressures students face when juggling studies and part-time work”
“Notably, the findings highlight the pressures students face when juggling studies and part-time work, as well as feelings of isolation.”
Australia recently announced it would put a cap back on the number of hours international students are permitted to work from July next year, after it removed the limitations in 2021.
Stakeholders had feared that uncapped work hours could lead to students to focus on work over studies and damage Australia’s reputation as a “quality-focused” study destination.
Researchers also pointed to a correlation between poor mental health and students working either fewer than 10 hours per week or more than 40 hours per fortnight. Those students living alone or off campus were more likely to report poor mental health, as were those not attending orientation sessions.
Some 77% of respondents said they had feelings of depression, sadness and anxiety the week before the survey was taken.
However, IDP noted that the 26% of respondents accessing mental health support is in line with those being impacted often or always.
Australia is “particularly popular” among students from Thailand, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, and Vietnam, but “trails” other destinations when it comes to students from China and India, the research added.
“With open borders and attractive post-study work policies, destinations are going head-to-head to attract international students. However, at the same time, many countries are facing socioeconomic instability, and students are navigating new emerging challenges,” Emmett concluded.