Brand Australia: a no-sell in international education

The focus is on students after they arrive

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is inquiring into “challenges and opportunities” in tourism and international education (CMM October 21 ’22).

The committee’s trade sub-committee is hearing evidence today from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Last week the committee itself was in Sydney, where it heard from international students, ELICOS bodies and five unis, Macquarie, UNSW, Sydney, UTS and Wollongong.

HE submissions to the inquiry address a bunch of subjects, student visas, working hours, graduate work rights and what a splendid job each university did during the pandemic.

But there was one issue that didn’t keep coming up in them – a national campaign selling Australia to prospective international students. It could have. The inquiry terms of reference include, “effective measures to attract and retain students to Australia.”

Monash U certainly nailed the importance of reaching out, “there is a need to articulate … educational benefits as a whole for those who might seek to choose between Australian or Canadian or British universities,” its submission stated.

And the International Education Association of Australia pointed to Commonwealth spending to promote tourism in general, against nothing, or not much for international ed, while competitor countries have dedicated campaigns.

But selling Australia as an education brand did not feature in the generality of university submissions.

As for Austrade, while it describes its work in support “of a consistent National Brand presence” in its submission, there is no mention of an across media trans-national campaign to sell brand Australia to international students  –  although it  advises the industry  elsewhere that its “Future Unlimited” strategy and content (around for a decade) – “builds an innovative and inspirational image of Australian education with a focus on graduate outcomes.”

In New Zealand they are on to brand building after the pandemic. The “I am New” international education campaign launched last June.