Claire Field on the international ed challenge: what to offer who and where


As the tertiary education sector thinks about more on-line, off-shore delivery, one of the hardest decisions institutions face is where to start

In work undertaken for Austrade in 2016, Deloitte Access Economics estimated the size of the offshore opportunity to be 110m students, if Australia was to educate just 10 per cent of the estimated one billion learners worldwide.

Based on that analysis a conservative target of 10m off-shore students engaged with Australian education providers (including Australian EdTech platforms) by 2025 was set and formed a cornerstone of the National Strategy for International Education 2025.

The current Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 focusses on recovery from the impact of the pandemic. It shies away from specific targets, although its strong emphasis on diversity means that off-shore delivery continues a priority.

What then for institutions? Is it as simple as loading a micro-credential or two onto the FutureLearn platform, through Austrade’s ‘Study with Australia’ partnership?

The Study with Australia pilot, conducted between April and June 2020, attracted more than 800 000 enrolments from 224 markets. The partnership has since expanded to include many more providers, but it will take considerable effort for most institutions to springboard from this impressive level of initial engagement into on-going on-line offerings for significant numbers of fee-paying offshore students.

The most important decision for institutions is, of course, being clear about their market advantage –their “unique selling proposition.” Put simply, why would students in Costa Rica, Ghana or Uzbekistan, want to enrol with you?

Even once an institution has determined its market advantage, then comes the question of what it offers? Will students living in countries which lack close ties to Australia be prepared to invest their time and money in a full qualification on-line, or are short courses for professionals looking to keep their skills up-to-date a better alternative (especially if the short courses can stack into full qualifications)?

While institutions are moving to offer more of micro-credentials/short courses within Australia – a significant offshore opportunity awaits particularly for providers which already have strong relationships with large employers in Australia, who are well placed to use those relationships to enter new offshore markets.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. She spoke recently with Tony Brennan, founder of Talisium, an Australian EdTech platform offering thousands of healthcare courses globally.