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### Enhancing International Student Recruitment: Influence of Immigration Policies, Affordability, and Job Prospects on Study Abroad Choices

New research underscores the significance of international students’ thorough evaluation of work opportunities and immigration policies when considering potential study abroad destinations. The study highlights the following points:

  • The critical importance of educational institutions effectively conveying up-to-date information regarding visas, work permits, and immigration prospects to students.
  • The potential hindrance to institutions’ communication with students and agents caused by delays in government announcements and subsequent dissemination of information.
  • The impact of new immigration regulations in Australia, Canada, and the UK on international students’ study motivation in these countries.

AECC Survey Targets Students in Key Markets Worldwide

In March 2024, an overseas education consultancy conducted a survey involving over 8,300 prospective students from 124 countries (excluding China). The survey primarily represented nationalities such as India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Findings revealed that more than half of the surveyed students expressed interest in working in the host country post-study (56%), with a smaller percentage aiming to immigrate to the same country (28%). Only 16% intended to leave immediately after completing their studies.

Notably, 79% of students emphasized the extreme importance of post-study work rights when contemplating studying abroad, while 19% regarded them as moderately important, and less than 3% deemed them unimportant.

According to the AECC slide deck, job opportunities and work rights hold a similar level of influence as the quality of education for international students selecting study destinations. Migration opportunities rank lower on their list of priorities.

Primary motivations for selecting a study abroad destination. Source: AECC

Shifting Preferences in Student Destination Choices

Approximately one-sixth of surveyed students altered their destination preferences in the past year. Among them, interest surged for New Zealand (+86%), Germany (+36%), and the US (+13%), while declining significantly for Canada (-32%) and slightly for the UK (-16%) and Australia (-9%).

It is essential to consider that the increases for New Zealand and Germany are within the context of smaller overall volumes selecting those destinations. Moreover, the 2022 data was amid the initial “post-COVID” period, such as Australia’s border reopening.

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Trends in students’ preferences for specific destinations. Source: AECC

Students who changed their preferred destinations often cited high fees in their original choice country (24%) as the primary reason. Additionally, factors like negative policy changes for international students (14%) and better job opportunities in the new preferred country influenced a significant proportion of students.

Students shifting preferences were mainly driven by affordability and work prospects. Source: AECC

Importance of Clear Communication for Students and Agents

Ascent One’s survey highlighted the necessity for transparent communication with students and agents. The survey, encompassing over 1,000 current, former, and prospective international students from China, India, the Philippines, and Colombia, focused on their experiences related to studying in Australia.

A concerning finding was that 41% of current and prospective students lacked awareness of Australia’s current migration settings. Of those informed, over three-quarters had to self-educate, while 15% relied on their agent for information.

Moreover, students who became aware of stricter immigration controls were less inclined to pursue studies in Australia. This trend aligns with research from IDP and Studyportals this year.

The survey also unveiled that:

  • The primary reason for international students choosing Australia was better career prospects post-study (63%).
  • Only 23% of current students held jobs related to their studies, while 44% of former students worked in unrelated fields.

Among those not employed in their study-related field, 37% cited ineligibility due to lacking Australian permanent residency or full-time work rights.

Emphasis on Clarity Amid Evolving Policies

The delay in disseminating information about new immigration policies and work rights in countries like Australia and Canada can lead to confusion among international students. This, in turn, challenges institutions in providing clear guidance and communication to students and agents.

Despite the complexities faced by international students in Australia, the Ascent One survey indicated that 85% of current and former students enrolled in Australian institutions would recommend the country as a study destination to their peers back home.

Naresh Gulati, the founder and CEO of Ascent One, highlighted the urgent need to address the communication gap between the government, education providers, agents, and students to preserve Australia’s reputation as a premier study destination.

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