New report on international student experience in Australian universities

JUST 12 per cent of prospective international students are considering The University of Newcastle, according to QS Enrolment Solutions’ sixth annual survey, which interviewed 67,172 people from 193 countries.

QS Enrolment Solutions’ head of market intelligence Tim Renowden said increasing international enrolments was one “lever” universities could pull to lift revenue in the face of the government’s freeze on tertiary funding and there was still a “fair amount of head room” to grow numbers, particularly if universities marketed to countries outside their traditional base of China, South Asia and South-East Asia.

But, he said, there was one hurdle: Sydney and Melbourne held a 71 per cent market share of commencing international students in 2017. “There really is an awareness deficit – Adelaide, Perth and Canberra are also having the same issues,” he said. “Newcastle has natural advantages of ease of transport, cost of living and lifestyle, but there’s a limited amount the university or the city can do in terms of destination marketing. That’s a role for government and tourism bodies. But to improve student experience, cities can make sure they are safe and welcoming, offer employment and have access to affordable accommodation and cost of living.”

The report figure of 64 per cent of prospective students making a decision based on course first, then country then university suggests there are other ways institutions can bolster their appeal.

“Universities have to focus on their strengths – the University of Newcastle (UON) does very well, particularly in some key subjects: engineering, nursing, exercise and sports science and architecture,” he said. “Students are looking for high quality teaching and 77 per cent said they preferred universities with high student satisfaction as opposed to a prestigious brand – and Newcastle is above average in both.”

UON data from January shows international students made up 7105 – or 19 per cent – of the current 38,219 enrolments. The survey said 80 per cent of respondents would prefer a university with a high number of international students as opposed to one with a low number.