While not as popular as other Australian states, such as New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD) and Victoria (VIC), there is evidence that Western Australia (WA) has become better known as a study destination with overseas students in recent years. Research conducted in 2012 by marketing agency Perth Education City/Study Perth revealed that more students are now researching Perth as a first choice destination, with nearly half of students surveyed considering Perth as their only potential study destination, compared to one in five students in a 2003 study.
Mike Ryan, Executive Director of Perth Education City, said the research conducted last year with 1,000 student participants was instrumental to the launch of Study Perth, the brand for education providers in the city. “Launched in March this year, the new brand has received positive feedback and better reflects the changing face of the city as an economic powerhouse,” he says. “Perth has [better] international student diversity than any other state in Australia, and this has been achieved by following a market diversification strategy.”
WA is home to four public universities and one private, all with campuses in Perth, although many have multiple campuses throughout Western Australia and overseas. Justine Brosnan from the University of Western Australia which has campuses in Perth and Albany, WA says that 20 per cent of the student body is from overseas. Overseas students choose to study at the university because of its reputation and ranking, she says. “Also, Perth is a contrast to other busy cosmopolitan cities.” The largest international cohorts for the university are from Singapore, Malaysia and China.
Overseas student numbers at Australian tertiary institutions have generally been declining over the last few years, although the figures for commencing students in the year-to-date in June this year showed a small increase of 3.3 per cent. Tertiary institutions in WA represented 7.5 per cent of all commencements in Australia up to June 2013 and eight per cent of all enrolments, revealing a small but significant role.
Sandra de Witt Hemala at the University of Notre Dame, WA’s only private university with campuses in Fremantle, Broome and Sydney, says that the university is part of a wide network of Catholic universities and colleges around the world which has boosted its reputation overseas. She says, “The university has derived much of its early inspiration and governance from its well-renowned founding partner, the University of Notre Dame Indiana in the USA.” De Witt Hemala adds that the Broome campus in the north of WA includes the Nulungu Research Institute, where students can study a Bachelor of Arts in Aboriginal Studies as well as other qualifications. “In Broome, the campus enjoys a beautiful tropical setting in the magnificent landscape of the Kimberley region,” she says, adding the campus is different from any other in Australia.
Even students studying in the state capital of Perth have plenty of opportunities to discover the vast wilderness on their doorstep. As the least populated state in Australia, WA offers a unique experience for students wanting to experience a different way of life. Hiromi Fujisaki from the Polytechnic of Western Australia, which has six campuses throughout Perth, points out the city’s main attractions for students, according to Perth Education City’s report findings. “It has a reputation for education quality, employment opportunities and buoyant state economic conditions and a better studying environment clean, multicultural, safe and a better climate.”
Fujisaki adds that three per cent of the institution’s student body is international, and is a particularly good option for those looking for pathway courses. “Polytechnic West is the only state training provider that offers Elicos, VET and HE courses within the same institution, with opportunities for pathways into university bachelor degrees,” she says. “This incremental study pathway option is particularly helpful for international students from non-English speaking backgrounds.”
With Chinese and Indian students making up the largest nationality groups in higher education in Australia, Fujisaki says that a number of factors affecting enrolments in 2013 may bring about changes. “In 2012, Vietnam was the largest source country for our VET and Elicos programmes, followed by Malaysia, while Indian students made up the largest numbers in our higher education programmes. A mixture of factors has brought about changes in 2013, including the strength of the Australian dollar and the government’s policy changes that impacted on student visas. The Australian government’s introduction of streamlined visa processing and the post-study work rights in 2013, as well as the skilled occupation list changes, have also impacted on international students’ course changes.”
Overall, Western Australia can offer international tertiary students a wealth of different options, from associate degree courses to postgraduate research options. And when it comes to marketing overseas, Brosnan says, “We market via student fairs, agents, word-of-mouth and our online presence. The most successful methods are student fairs and word-of-mouth.” Fujisaki adds that they use on- and offshore agents approved by the Western Australian government, as well as student fairs organised by Perth Education City, the Department of Training and Workforce Development and Education and Training International, and online international marketing campaigns such as Hotcourses and Polytechnic West’s own website, to market their courses overseas. “We also use the Global Network Offices of the government of Western Australia,” she adds. firstname.lastname@example.org