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Australian International Education Marketing China

Student expo reveals China crisis. “WHERE is the Australian section?” we asked at one of the smartly branded, well-attended British stands.

“Oh, it’s tucked down in the back corner.” Sure enough, there were 19 Study in Australia-branded booths, but unlike the buzzing aisles of the British, American and Canadian sections many of the Australian marketers were left talking to each other.

Welcome to China’s biggest international student mart, the China Annual Conference for International Education. It’s one of two held each year (the other is in March) that tour China’s six biggest cities to provide information on offshore universities, colleges and schools to the 170,000 or so students who will leave to study overseas next year. But, increasingly, Australia is not on the shopping list….

…Projected numbers from China, representing nearly 30 per cent of all international students, look like falling and falling fast. Monash has estimated an 8 per cent to 11 per cent fall in enrolments next year but education agents in China, who recruit upwards of 90 per cent of all non-thesis-based places, are estimating a fall in demand of anywhere between 10 per cent and 40 per cent for universities and even higher for vocational and English-language colleges.

Disagree, maybe not in China, but many education fairs you will find more institutional personnel and agents than genuine prospective students, why?

Five, ten, fifteen years ago physical promotional channels were the only alternative through brochures, post, fax and offshore international education events to which personnel would travel then try sell, spruik or promote courses and institutions hopefully leading to applications, then students enrolling onshore.

However, post internet digital, virtual or online marketing has come to the fore, all year round for economic cost, facilitating the most effective “marketing” channels i.e. satisfied students onshore, alumni, family and agents, who could make up 99% of all enrolled students (applications do not equate to actual commencements).

Why do institutions still persist with education fairs and related events? Travel rorting or opportunities, and Austrade complicit in preferring one off events with simplistic evaluation (and possibly bonuses tied in to numbers of Australian institutions, not actual enrolments a year later?)….. as several university personnel stated several years ago, “if we used the internet for marketing, which we acknowledge as effective and economic, we would not need to travel!” or “why do we need a virtual marketing strategy, we have approved travel plans?”

Effective marketing would include (virtual or digital) marketing strategy, regular feedback from existing students, using online media for promotions, using websites as “shopfronts” linked to offshore agents, then dealing with direct enquiries all year round in cooperation with agents.

Enrolments and marketing are not simply one off selling of applications, but a process of up to one year or more from original enquiry through study application, visa application process, travel, enrolment, census, satisfied student, graduation and then “word of mouth”.


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