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Multiculturalism luring overseas students

8 November 20160 comments

Australia’s multicultural society is proving a big drawcard for international students seeking an education overseas, according to a new survey.

International education and multiculturalism are feeding off each other cementing the sector as Australia’s largest service export industry.

The survey, by recruitment giant IDP Education, found multiculturalism among the top three factors influencing students’ decision on where to go to study.

The survey canvassed 2800 IDP clients, mostly post-graduate students, about their perceptions of five English speaking study destinations.

The students came from 30 countries and almost half were studying in Australia.

26256741The survey’s report said that perceptions of Australia’s safety and affordability had improved steadily over the past decade when high dollar and much-publicised attacks on students deterred many of them.

IDP head of research Lyndell Jacka said last year’s survey had highlighted concerns of “cost shock” when students arrived and realised how high the cost of living was, coupled with high fees and few graduate work opportunities.

But, she said this year’s survey had shown improvement on these issues.

Ms Jacka said recent changes to visa processing had little impact on student flows and that Australia, along with Canada and New Zealand – but unlike the US and Britain – was perceived as a welcoming country.

She said a new survey question had revealed the importance of pre-existing social connections.

“We often talk about the power of word-of-mouth, but we never specifically explored the tribal connections attracting students to Australia,” Ms Jacka said.

“Two-thirds of students knew somebody in Australia and nine in 10 spoke to someone before they came here,” she said.

Ms Jack said the vibrant nature of the nation’s largest cities also attracted students.

“A lot of the students come from big cities so there is a sense of familiarity. It goes to the whole idea that there is safety among a lot of people and a diverse mix of people,” she said.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced a new Council for International Education to oversee the sector.

The 12-person council, chaired by Mr Birmingham, will oversee a national strategy and includes college and company bosses.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist