This was an observation agreed by panellists at The PIE Live focusing on Australia’s policy position and outlook.
“Students like to go on campus but they also like flexibility. They definitely want to be in the country but there’ll be movement away from just starting a program, for example, in Australia, Canada, the US,” forecast Mark Lucas, chief corporate and business officer at iae GLOBAL, a student recruitment business working across multiple countries.
“If they can see an opportunity to start in their own country they will”
“In the end, they like to come to countries like Australia and actually experience the culture and post-grad work opportunities, but if they can see an opportunity to start in their own country they will and we’re seeing that already starting in places like China,” said Lucas.
This is an approach the University of Western Australia has already begun to put in place with five different learning centres already set up in China, noted Tayyeb Shah, DVC Global Partnerships.
“We are looking to the future on how we can develop those hybrid models where students can spend the initial one or two years studying online before they come onshore,” he said. “It gives a more financially viable package for a lot of students”.
Berquist segmented a “retail” and “wholesale” approach to working with key student markets, and said the university identified China as a prime partner for developing more wholesale relationships.
“Our main focus of that initially was China, of course, because we felt that while we’re still getting significant yield from the retail market in China, we felt that we were a little bit behind the curve in terms of the wholesale partnership market,” said Berquist.
He related that the university began to develop joint programs, working with a broker agency called Australian Education Management Group based in Melbourne with a lot of staff in China.
“They were very important in helping us manage the approval process for programs that are approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education,” said Berquist. “So we have joint programs at Southwest University in Chongqing, where we’re in the second wave of a program in data science, which is a three plus one plus X.
“So the student studies for three years in China, they can finish there and get the Chinese degree, but they come across in year four and gets a degree here and go on into the master’s in data science. And that’s been working very well for us.”
“We are revisiting a lot of plans and using this as an opportunity to become more agile as a sector”
As part of the agreement, often referred to a “four one-thirds”, said Berquist, “we are required to deliver from New Zealand one-third of the core curriculum of that bachelor’s program in China at Southwest University”.
Delivering this via accelerated delivery, academic staff from New Zealand go to China and deliver an intensive seminar format, “where they get through a semester’s paper in two to three weeks”, said Berquist, and then return home.
Improving the pedagogy in online learning and reducing fees are also key parts of the plan for many Australian institutions.
Shah at UWA said while there’s been significant devastation in the sector which will take a long time to recover, he felt sure that international education in Australia has a bright future.
“We are revisiting a lot of plans and using this as an opportunity to become more agile as a sector. I believe we as a sector will come out better. Better in innovation and agility, and call me a glass half full guy but I think it’s important to keep promoting that.”