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The Strategic Risk Register for NC2012 implementation has noted that some particular risks apply specifically to international student recruitment. One listed example is that the increased time frame for Engineering may be unattractive for both direct entry and articulation students (UWA's biggest market is Singapore and most students from there come through articulation). Another example is that the University's decision not to indicate completed majors on the testamur may adversely affect international enrolments in some courses until the market comes to accept that all such information will be shown in detail on the academic transcript.
Mitigating measures include ensuring that positive features of the course changes are emphasised (e.g. enhanced employment value of Cycle 2 degrees) and that the visibility of all majors is highlighted in any NC2012 publicity targeting international students.
On the other hand the value proposition embodied in our NC2012 presents advantages as well as risks. International markets are not static, and it is expected that the probable trend should eventually favour UWA: for although demand from international students for Australian undergraduate degrees is likely to decline as some source countries increase their own higher education capacity, conversely we can expect that socio-economic forces and employment opportunities in Asia should produce greater international interest in advanced professional programs at Australian universities that have first-rate graduate schools with strong research underpinnings.
With such considerations in mind, the Senior Academic Reviewer sought an update from the International Centre (IC) on how the international market is responding so far to New Courses, with particular regard to the following:
- How the number of offers made so far for 2012 compares with the number of offers made for 2011 at the same period last year
- Whether the International Centre is encountering any specific difficulties related to the New Courses
- Whether all Faculties are responding promptly and efficiently when consulted by the International Centre on particular applications
The notes that follow draw directly and extensively on information provided by Mr Kelly Smith, Director International Centre, on behalf of his staff.
Year to date (YTD) data as of 24 August 2011 for undergraduate 2012 S1 commencements:
- Offers 354
- Acceptances 9
YTD data as of 24 August 2010 for undergraduate 2011 S1 commencements:
- Offers 376
- Acceptances 27
It is too early to draw firm conclusions from those figures. For one thing the picture continues to change (e.g. UWA received an additional 76 applications from Singapore over the last weekend). For another thing, in view of the general slowdown in the international student sector across Australia, it is difficult at this stage to determine whether the drop in activity is partly attributable to any aspect of our New Courses.
The exchange value of the Australian dollar is clearly one adverse factor. For instance Singaporean students now find it considerably cheaper to take up a course in the UK than in Australia - e.g. at the University of Liverpool (a Russell Group institution) the BA costs only 10500GBP per year (= approx. 16000AUD).
The University has decided to make use of Hobson's Enrolment Management Services to follow up individual offers to international students, and this may help us disentangle the various issues causing downward pressure. Benefits of the service include the collection of data on the decision-making process for students, including those who decline a place at UWA. This will give the International Centre a better understanding of the outcomes of offers made, and guide strategies to increase the offer/acceptance conversion ratio.
Of all Australian universities, UWA currently has the second highest number of enrolments from Singapore polytechnic institutions via IDP (second semester 2011). The University of Queensland leads the field. It will be interesting to see whether we can hold our position in 2012. Early indications are that we are likely to become less attractive for some polytechnic students, particularly those interested in Engineering.
3. Market feedback
3.1 China: Feedback from staff travelling to China has been mostly positive. Several staff members have specifically mentioned that the changes to Engineering are being well received once an explanation has been provided. When shown that a student will graduate with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree after five years of study, rather than six as is the current system, parents have responded positively to the changes.
3.2 Hong Kong: There has been a similar response for Hong Kong, but this market is more interested in those undergraduate degree programs that are not substantially affected by the course changes. There has been a positive response to the other features of NC2012 such as broadening units and student mobility.
3.3 General: The process of finalising course details has been somewhat slower than is desirable for international recruitment.
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