Student profile and social media trends surveyed

24 February, 2014

Around half of international students planning or pursuing higher education study in Australia have a household income of less than US$25,000 and are more active in social media than domestic students, according to a survey by Australia-based education resource company Hobsons.

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The survey, Marketing Channel Optimisation: Achieving competitive advantage in higher education recruitment, which received 9,237 responses from current or prospective students from 179 countries, found that 51.3 per cent of international undergraduate students and 47.9 per cent of international postgraduate students had a total household income below US$25,000.  The next largest cohort was the US$25,000-to-US$50,000 category: 18.9 per cent (undergraduate) and 19.7 per cent (postgraduate).

In terms of individual countries, 74.7 per cent of Malaysian respondents had a household income below US$25,000, followed by South Africa (74.1 per cent) and India (59 per cent). The countries with the lowest percentage of respondents with a household income below US$25,000 were Chile and Ghana, both on 29 per cent.

David Harrington, Hobsons Managing Director, Asia Pacific, said, “The data dispels the widely held view that all international students come from affluent backgrounds. It’s fantastic that international students from a diverse financial background have the opportunity to receive a world-class education in Australia.”

International students were more likely than their domestic counterparts to follow or like an institution on social media, with 45 per cent of international answering “yes” to this question, compared with 32 per cent of domestic students. By regional breakdown, students from Africa were most likely to engage with institutions through social media channels (46.2 per cent), while students from Oceania were the least likely (35.9 per cent).

While Facebook was comfortably the most used medium for both international and domestic students, the survey found that 49 per cent of international respondents were active on Google+, compared with 35 per cent of domestic students. Students from Latin America were the most likely to communicate via social media channels.

Hobsons’ Vice-President of Marketing, Fabian Marrone, said digital marketing was becoming more powerful. “Content is king as far as digital channels go, although this phrase is often used without much thought to the quality of content, which is essential in the new world of algorithms imposed by search engines,” said Marrone.

“Marketers at higher education institutions need to be constantly evaluating, testing and tweaking their strategies to ensure the right students are being targeted through the right channel at the right time, allowing for optimal engagement and conversion,” he added.

In terms of study areas, engineering and technology was the most popular field/intended field of study with 1,767 preferences, followed by business and administrative studies with 1,729 and management studies with 1,119.

Hobsons analysed influences on decision making in the survey and found that perceived teaching quality was the most significant factor in the initial stage, cited by 83 per cent of respondents. “Marketers and recruiters need to find ways to better demonstrate institutions’ teaching quality,” said the report. Costs/availability of scholarships emerged as the most-cited factor for the final decision-making stage. Recommendations from agents were among the other influences highlighted.

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