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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
11th Oct 2023

Australia draws level with Canada in latest student destination preference survey

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • A new global survey provides some evidence of shifting student preferences, with Australia gaining in popularity to move into a tie with Canada for the most frequently cited first choice destination
  • Quality of education and employment opportunities remain two of the primary decision factors for most students

The latest edition of IDP's recurring Emerging Futures survey gathered responses from more than 10,000 "prospective, current, and completed international students" between 19 July and 21 August 2023.

The headline finding is that Canada's popularity has slipped slightly, while Australia's has been bolstered, compared to the previous survey cycle in March 2023. The result of those contrasting shifts, is that Australia is now on par with Canada in a tie for the most popular destination among responding students.

Student ranking of their first choice destinations. Source: IDP

IDP highlights the importance "high quality of education" as the number one factor in student destination preference, noting that, "Perceptions of this factor have declined for UK, USA, and Canada since Emerging Futures 3 in March 2023. Australia is the only top-four destination to see an increase (possibly a reason why it has moved up as a first-choice preference)."

"For the first time in two years, Australia has joined Canada as a first-choice study destination, with a 2% increase since the previous Emerging Futures survey conducted in March 2023, whilst Canada has lost 2% since the previous survey," adds an accompanying statement from IDP.

"Australia saw increases in perceptions of several important factors, including ‘graduate employment opportunities’ and ‘post-study work policies’. Students continue to choose Australia for its 'high-quality of education' and because it is a 'safe country for international students', with these factors seeing a 3.6% and 3% increase respectively."

“Global competition for international students remains high," said IDP's Director of Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement APAC, Joanna Storti. "While Australia is clearly attractive for international students at present, it’s imperative that their voices continue to be heard by policy makers and institutions so that Australia remains a leading choice for students.”

Ms Storti is referring in part to continuing survey findings that cost of living in Australia, including access to affordable housing, remains a top concern among current students.

The survey continues to measure student perceptions of leading study destinations, and to explore key decision factors in study abroad planning. The following chart summarises relative student ranking of five top destinations, all on a scale of 1–10 where 10 is the best possible rating.

Student ratings of key characteristics of leading study destinations. Source: IDP

Across IDP's global sample, "high quality of education" and "employment opportunities after graduation" remain the key decision factors for students. The following graphic shows the percentage response from students to the multiple choice question, “Why did you choose your first-choice destination?”

“Why did you choose your first-choice destination?” Source: IDP

Commenting on the shifting student preferences evident in the current survey cycle, IDP adds that, "Factors such as ‘post-study work rights’, ‘welfare of international students’, and ‘graduate employment opportunities’ still have the power to affect student choice. Institutions, governments, and policy makers from the top four study destinations cannot rely on previous positive sentiment and high rankings."

For additional background, please see:

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