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AIEC Benchmarking Australian University International Office Operations

2013 Research Agenda: Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum

‘Presentation to AIEC Australian International Education Conference Alan Olsen Benchmarking Australian University International Operations2012, involving 37 members of Universities Australia, covering 85,538 commencing international students

• Costs of International Offices

• Staffing of international marketing, enquiries, admissions and compliance

• International admissions policies, procedures and quotas

• International student services

• International student mobility

• Costs of recruiting international students from source countries

• Conversion rates from applications to offers to commencements

• Structure of International Offices

• Scholarships provided by universities to international students

• Accommodation provided by universities for international students.


Proportion of Starts through Agents

Thirty-three universities reported both the number of commencements in 2012 and the number of commencements through agents, enabling benchmarking of the proportion of students through agents. The 33 universities reported 81,377 commencements in 2012, with 51,523 commencements or 63.3% through agents.


Costs of Recruitment for Key Source Countries

If salaries, publications and scholarships are regarded as fixed costs that do not vary across countries, then commissions, travel, advertising and marketing, exhibitions, freight and the costs of office(r)s overseas are country costs that do vary across countries. Commissions, travel, advertising and marketing, exhibitions, freight and the costs of office(r)s overseas in aggregate provide a country cost of recruiting students from that country. Importantly Australia is a source country.’


Efficiency or Effectiveness? Useful and informative, but arbitrary and limited boundaries to the empirical system, or international office environment, ignores the fragmentary or atomising impact of digital which breaks down organisational boundaries.

1. Focusing upon applications and commencements without taking into account full hierarchy e.g. web traffic, enquiries, application and commencements.  In digital (marketing) world an important question would be how many online direct enquiries are converted into applications? How much traffic is being referred by agent websites, directories etc.?

2.  In recruitment costs, appears focus is upon conventional non digital marketing i.e. ‘fly in fly out’ marketing via “travel, advertising and marketing, exhibitions”, the most expensive kind The main game is now digital marketing with almost all prospective candidates online looking for information etc.. However, to assess or benchmark digital marketing, apart from direct cost, one needs to go down hierarchy starting outside the international office i.e. web traffic (paid, organic and/or referrals via agent websites?), enquiries, applications and commencements.

In Australia there does seem to be some reluctance to really drill down and assess quality of the learning experience, international student welfare and effectiveness of international marketing. 

Institutions who do systematically gain feedback from new commencements soon after starting i.e. bottom up, then have access to a wealth of information to assess marketing and quality.

Finally, with atomisation or fragmentation marketing and recruitment channels due to digital, international offices can learn which conventional and digital channels are effective, i.e. according to commencements.

As it is, according to some international managers, offshore exhibitions (expensive and time consuming) are neither effective nor analysed, yet still exceedingly popular with international office personnel?


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