International Education – Outlook for 2014

Australia’s international education sector has developed considerably since the 1950’s, evolving originally via the Colombo Plan, to a now truly mature market oriented industry. International education contributes around $15 billion annually to the economy and is Australia’s largest service export with more than 400,000 international students enrolled in this country each year.

With international education being so critical to the Australian economy, not to mention the higher education sector, how is the industry placed as we enter 2014?  We sought the views of someone who is well placed to comment on the sector.

Stephen Connelly was until last year the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International and Development) and Vice President at RMIT University and was President of the International Education Association Australia from 2008 to 2012.  He now runs GlobalEd Services, a consultancy working for Australian and overseas institutions advising on issues of international and transnational education. Given his depth of experience in the international education sector we were keen to get his impressions on the state of the market.

What do you see as the outlook for international education within Australia in 2014?

“Despite a fairly conservative view towards the end of last year, the current data is suggesting that a significant recovery is underway in international education within Australia.” 

What are the key factors affecting the sector presently?

“I believe that the level of the Australian dollar (which is now well down from its heights of last year) is still a major determinant of the success of the industry.  However there has also been the positive impact of the Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) arrangements for higher education which makes it easier for students to obtain visas, although other education sectors have not gained the same benefits yet. This will come as the SVP program is extended to other providers”

What are the trends in the international student market in the US and how is this affecting the Australian market?

“It’s true that there is strong international student growth in the United States (7.2% increase from 2011/12 to 2012/13 according to Open Doors), although I don’t believe this is at the expense of Australia, as yet! With the use of agents by US Universities increasing this will, in my view, increase the global competition for the international student.  However at this stage I think the relative value of the Australian dollar will have more effect in the short term.”

What is your view on the key factors affecting international students once they are studying in Australia and are they being addressed by institutions/governments?

“The personal experience and employment outcomes remain the key factors in the minds of the international students and their families and this is how they measure the value of the education provided by the institution.  Australian universities are constantly addressing issues of graduate attributes and outcomes for students. A recent focus for Universities has been the development of students’ communication skills, an important factor in achieving successful employment outcomes post-study. This applies equally to local and international students.”

So, an interesting insight into the sector and on balance a positive view from Stephen on the outlook for international education in this country which is no doubt welcome news for those involved in the higher education industry.

Rohan Carr
January 2014

Stephen Connelly is based in Melbourne and is the founder and Director of GlobalEd Service, www.globaledservices.com.

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