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Australian HE should market to pre-teens, urges report

A third of prospective international students start considering their university options between the ages of 11 and 15 according to a survey of students applying to Australian universities carried out by Hobsons. Another 14% of the 45,000 respondents said they started weighing their university options even earlier, between the ages of seven and 10.

14% of the 45,000 students surveyed said they started weighing their university options between the ages of seven and 10

The study found that graduate employment and subject rankings are the greatest influencers in the decision making process which Hobsons argues should influence university marketing strategies targeting younger students.

“The order of importance within a communication strategy is essential”

The report instructs universities to make “a concerted effort to provide students with the essential skills and connections to ensure employability, in a global context”.

“Universities must show how an Australian degree is a tangible advantage to prospective students, through partnerships with employers and industry groups,” it urges.

It identifies an essential “order of importance” within a communication strategy.

“Indicators of return on investment from international students are subject rankings, graduate employment, university ranking and price, followed by graduate starting salary. Marketers should seed content through automation based on this order of relative importance.”

The report revealed the influence of academic league tables, with 24% of students surveyed saying that subject ranking is the most important criteria for evaluating a degree’s value.

And a further 20% of students said that a university’s ranking was their most important factor in determining where to study.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 12.26.02Graduate employment rate followed, cited by 22% as their first deciding factor, followed by price of study, at 17.5%, then graduate starting salary, at 16%.

“Ultimately, we need to understand that students are consumers — savvy consumers — and that education is a premium commodity,” David Harrington, president of enrolment management services and regional director, Hobsons APAC, wrote in the report’s introduction.

“In the education industry we must collectively define ROI and understand it from a student perspective,” he urged. “We need to determine what international students seek from further education.”

The survey also revealed a disconnect between what students value in a degree and the opportunities they believe an overseas qualification can offer.

Getting a job after graduation was the number one consideration for students when considering whether or not to attend university at all, with 80% saying it was either very or highly important.

However, just 72.4% of students surveyed said they thought an overseas qualification would improve their chances of employment.

Students were more optimistic that it would benefit them in the long-term, however, with 81.2% saying they thought studying abroad would improve their overall career prospects.

Knowledge of post-study residency and work options among the surveyed was limited with only 63% saying overseas study would improve their likelihood of migration or permanent residency, and just 18% saying that post-study work options were key in their decision to study in another country rather than Australia.

“We need to understand that students are consumers — savvy consumers — and that education is a premium commodity”

Post-study immigration and work rules is “one area where the international education market is vulnerable to uncertainty created by political decisions related to skilled immigration,” according to the report.

Against this backdrop, it urges universities to make a conscious effort to show students the advantages of studying in Australia as opposed to competitor destinations such as the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand.

And it’s not just what but how, when it comes to reaching these students. The report notes that: “while there is a place for traditional channels (on-shore events, for instance), the preferred engagement methods for a future student remains in the digital space.”


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