A new report commissioned by StudyPerth has recommended the international education body update its strategy to focus on destination marketing and employability outcomes.
Perth has a perception problem, according to a report by StudyPerth, the peak body for promoting international education in Western Australia.
On behalf of StudyPerth, international education research agency QS Enrolment Solutions surveyed 3,000 prospective international students, 2,300 current international students and about 300 education agents.
Released last week, the report found a significant ‘awareness deficit’ for Perth among prospective students while employability, both during and post studies, and financial pressures rate as the biggest concerns for prospective and existing students.
Just 9.5 per cent of university prospects reported they were quite familiar with Perth or knew Perth well, while 78 per cent knew very little to nothing about the city.
Overall, current students were found to be more likely to feel positive about living and studying in Perth than prospective students, with 91 per cent of current students saying it is a great place to live.
Some students reported Perth was too isolated and negatively affected their tourism experience in Australia.
The report recommended considering subsidised or discounted travel, organised tourism, and the creation of incentives for family to visit.
Course fees, cost of living, availability of jobs while studying and graduate employment outcomes were key areas for potential improvement, the study found, with a clear role for local and state governments in developing policies around these areas.
“For example, we knew that employability is a key factor in the decision-making process, but I was surprised by the very high percentage of prospective students who are already in the workforce and looking for qualifications and experience to enhance or accelerate their career,” Mr Payne told Business News.
“Similarly, we knew that awareness of Perth has declined over a number of years, but I was surprised by the very high numbers of students and agents who reported that they knew little or very little about Perth, particularly in relation to the criteria that they use to make decisions on where to study.”
Students were reported to primarily select study destinations based on the courses offered by local universities.
And 62 per cent of respondents said they would choose a university with a high graduate employment rate over high student satisfaction ratings.
Additionally, students reported experiencing varying levels of racism, particularly when it came to finding casual work.
“StudyPerth used to be more concerned with direct marketing and promotion to students and agents in market,” he said.
“The new priorities will be to promote Perth as a world-class study destination, and ensure that the students’ experience in Perth is enjoyable, rewarding and productive.”
He said it was aiming to deliver a service that would guarantee students access to: a meaningful internship; an industry mentor; assistance finding a part time job; work-ready skills training; job seeking skills; and volunteer options.
He said while the bulk of the student concerns and priorities also applied to other states, the report highlighted prospective students and agents were far more aware of those states than they were of WA.
That may in part be attributable to StudyPerth’s lower budget of $3.3 million across five years, about $1.3 million of which comes from the state government; Queensland’s comparative body is allocated $25 million in that time.
Similar bodies in Victoria and South Australia have a budget of $32 million and $10 million respectively, across four years.
“An international education strategy is currently being finalised for Western Australia, however, it is clear that current levels of funding will be insufficient to support the effective implementation of the strategy,” Mr Payne said.
“WA’s four major public universities have already committed to contributing an additional $100,000 each to help establish the destination marketing project.”