The AECC Insights student survey found that prospective international students have changed their study destination preferences over the last 12 months.
It noted that the 3,169 respondents (22.4%) who changed their intended study destination in the year up to November, did so in favour of the Australia, UK and New Zealand.
The switch was at the expense of Canada and the US, the report noted.
The US was also selected as perceived as the least safe destination, while Australia, New Zealand and Canada were all rated higher.
However, the 22.4% of respondents changing their study destination said that the motivation for switching destination was led by better job opportunities in other destinations (36.1%), avoiding high course costs (14.5%) and better migration opportunities (13.4%).
It also found that students were hoping to switch study areas. IT and Computer Science saw an increase of 113.2%, business and management up 73%, health and medicine up 14.2% and travel and hospitality up 8.5%.
“We knew that IT and computer science programs were growing in popularity, but to see a 113% shift in favour of those courses for prospective international students changing their course category preferences, shows just how important technology courses and related opportunities are becoming for students around the world,” Jake Foster, AECC Global chief commercial officer told The PIE.
Among prospective students hoping to switch, the most common reason for doing so was as a result of better job opportunities, including higher pay.
The report also analysed attitudes on online and transnational education study.
“Less than 22% of students felt positive about online study without travelling abroad while almost double the number of students (37%) felt negative when responding to the question [of studying online without travelling overseas],” the report said.
Compared to October 2021, fewer respondents said they had negative feelings towards online study this year. In 2021, 41.5% of respondents viewed online study negatively.
Yet overall, this year 78.4% of prospective international students surveyed do not view online study positively, while last year the figure was 77.4%.
A total of 14,168 prospective international students were asked about studying partly online, with 66.25 replying that they would not be interested in studying online. Some 25.6% said they would be interested in studying their first year online, and 8.2% said they would be interested in studying their entire program online.
“A substantial proportion of prospective international student respondents (43.3%) are positive about completing their first year in their own country on campus before studying overseas,” it added.
“During the pandemic many international students chose not to study in Australia as a result of closed borders and lockdown policies,” Foster told AFR recently.
“Australia is a world-class destination for international students, the government has been able to resolve serious visa processing delays which is very positive for students considering studying here.”
Foster told The PIE that strong pent-up demand will continue to create “great opportunities in 2023 for education providers around the world”.
“As our AECC Insights November 2022 survey data shows, students are changing their destination preferences strongly in favour of Australia followed by the UK which presents strong opportunities for institutions in those markets,” he said.
“It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on the UK government’s sentiment towards international students as the policy outlook still requires further clarification.”
The UK’s home secretary Suella Braverman warned that “too many students… are propping up substandard courses in inadequate institutions” in October. She has also taken aim at dependents of international students who she says are ‘piggybacking’ on their family members’ student visas.
Foster also highlighted the less positive sentiment towards online study after the pandemic in the recent survey.
“We are seeing more interest in TNE programs around the world”
“This echoes what we are hearing in our office network, which is that students are really after that face-to-face in country experience and that is a key driver of their desires for studying abroad,” he explained.
However, AECC also anticipates that more students will be comfortable with the idea of transnational education programs in the future as “more and more reputable players enter the market with offerings that are attractive for students”.
“We are seeing more interest in TNE programs around the world as better TNE opportunities are made available to students via our global education partners,” he said.
“We know that students are much more positive about TNE (43.4% are positive about first year TNE programs), than they are about full online studies (only 21.6% prospective students are positive about studying online).”