And that’s a wrap!

October 9, 2015

Well, I think everyone landed safely and reached their intended destinations after flying with IDP Airlines at the conference dinner last night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dance floor fill so quickly or a band so surprised by the energy of the dancers! This morning’s pick-me-up breakfast in the exhibition hall was pretty quiet, I must say.

This morning, we heard from Stephen Oliver, who is currently making a documentary about climate change, focusing more on the solutions rather than the challenges. Stephen has filmed a number of documentaries looking at different sustainability issues in the food chain and believes it’s an exciting time to tell stories on-screen and is a brilliant medium to get the message out there. He suggested that stories and education go hand in hand and is a powerful combination to empower communities to make the world a more global, responsible and sustainable place.

The Honourable Simon Birmingham, having flown in from Brisbane on the 6am flight to join us, was very positive in his outlook of the industry. He is looking forward to finalising the national strategy on international education this year, which represents a shared vision across government, institutions and industry.

Key priorities include promoting a high quality of education system, reviewing how to further improve the student experience, enhancing business/institution partnerships, and expanding the technology delivery mode of universities to step up to the challenges of a rapidly changing digital age.

The Senator highlighted that graduate employability and enhancing international students’ career prospects were central to the strategy. This is a topic which has been discussed in many sessions over the last three days and is a challenge which is certainly not restricted to Australia.

Today’s highlight for me was Annabel Crabb’s conversation with Senator Penny Wong, closing the conference. What a fascinating and humorous account of the Senator’s experience growing up between Malaysian and Australian cultures, her arrival in parliament and her thoughts on international education.

I saw many people nodding in agreement to the Senator’s remark that international education has continuing significance in positioning and integrating Australia in the region. Being more Asia-capable – introducing more capacity for other language speaking and working cross-culturally – is becoming intrinsically more important for Australia.

The Senator is very optimistic about our country in the region and believes that we’re the most successful multi-cultural country in the world, with many things we can leverage of, including international education.

Also, who knew Penny Wong is an awesome chef?

Phew! I am thoroughly exhausted after four days of meeting people, attending sessions, enjoying the entertainment, absorbing new ideas, case studies, best practice examples and some really fascinating insights into the world of international education. Just before I catch my flight back to Melbourne, I’d like to wish you all a safe journey home and hope to see you all at AIEC 2016!


An extra dose of inspiration

October 8, 2015

I didn’t make it to quite as many sessions as I would have liked today, as I was on IELTS booth duty. However, this was great fun as I got to speak with many delegates I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise.

This morning’s plenary session was surprisingly touching as well as extremely inspiring.

His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO, the Governor of South Australia, gave a very moving account of his life story, peppered with plenty of humour, starting with his journey as a refugee from Vietnam on the first boats fleeing the war. He went on to recount the warm welcome he received when he reached Australia and his own experiences as an international student. He finished by sharing his belief that embracing this global interconnected world in which we live today will create a sustainable, inclusive and fairer global community in the future. Something which I think many would echo.

We received a double dose of compelling and inspirational presentations this morning. Dr Kirsty Sword-Gusmao followed, speaking about her experiences in Timor-Leste through her work as Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Founder of Alola, an NGO improving the lives of women and children. She really is a passionate advocator for education being the key factor in a better, richer, healthier and more dignified country.

I also enjoyed the panel session at the end of the day highlighting the hot topics in international education which had representatives from Brazil, Europe and the USA and showed how diverse the challenges are.

Marcus Laitinen from EAIE presented some interesting thoughts on the refugee crisis in Europe, concerned more with the long-term consequences and how education can help with their integration. There are many schemes in place across Europe offering educational places to refugees, and I was particularly struck by a new initiative called Science for Refugees which aims to match refugee scholars to universities through a web portal.

Vitor Amoral from the Brazilian Association for International Education presented his perspective on Brazil. Education (as we all know) is important for the development of a country, and we are seeing an encouraging movement in Brazil where discourse is being translated to action and, international education is very slowly moving up the political agenda (Science Without Borders aside).

From the USA, we heard that the big giant isn’t sleeping any more – as Brett Blacker from IEAA put it. Dr Fanta Aw from NAFSA spoke about the US having finally realised that recruiting overseas is a great idea, especially since the changing demographics of the US mean that as numbers of high school children drop, universities will increasingly look towards international students to make up their numbers.

This evening I am jetting off to the conference dinner. I must dash now – I have a plane to catch! Now where did I put my boarding pass…

So, how global, responsible and sustainable is international education?

October 7, 2015

Being a bit of a numbers fan, I was delighted to hear that there are over 175 speakers at AIEC, and more than 1100 delegates from 380 different organisations. What a great chance to mix with such a large number and variety of people in the international education industry! The only catch is deciding which sessions to attend…

My first stop was the opening plenary by Professor Arjen Wals from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Arjen delivered a very interesting talk on the role of education in creating a sustainable global ecology. One question he raised and which really struck me was ‘is international education diversifying or homogenising responses to this issue?’

A superb panel discussion followed, analysing the theme of the conference – global, responsible, sustainable.

Top ideas for me were:
– What it means to be sustainable depends on where you are and when.
– The changing values of future students: Generation Y are more conscious about sustainability on a global scale. Are they likely to take a more responsible approach?
– What is international education going to look like in 15 years’ time? How global, responsible and sustainable will the sector be then?

Some really pertinent questions were raised. However, these seemed to generate more questions than answers, and goes to show the dynamics and complexities of the international education sector.

Another highlight today for me was the café session run by the Pie News about student experiences. This was a really fun and interactive session where we split into groups with a few international students in each. The students were then put under the spotlight and quizzed (in the nicest possible way!) about their experiences and challenges of studying in Australia. I had three fantastic students in my group and each one had a different story to tell.

The next session on my list was delivered by Dave Coulter from IDP Education and Cath Gomes from RMIT University. Listening to the findings of IDP’s student buyer behaviour research, I noted that many of the points raised in the previous café session resonated in the results presented here.

I’m not going to go into much detail on the findings as it’s all so fascinating I’d probably go over my word count. I know IDP are going to publish an infographic of this data and the (now infamous) running men so you’ll be able to get your hands on this information too.

Something I did find interesting (and I hope will pique your interest too!) was around the information sources different cohorts of students looked at on fact-finding missions, which varied between groups. However, in a digital age, personal contact still plays an important role.

My head is certainly full of challenges and ideas raised by all the presentations I saw today. I hope I’ll be able to fit more in tomorrow!

And we’re off…

October 6, 2015

Welcome to AIEC!

My name is Stephanie Bethencourt and I am the Stakeholder Relations Officer at IDP Education, based in Melbourne. I have been asked to be this year’s guest blogger and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences at the event over the next few days.

This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to attend AIEC, and I must admit that last year in Brisbane I was quite overwhelmed by everything going on. So this year, I’ve decided to come prepared and am thoroughly looking forward to what is gearing up to be a fantastic event.

One of the things I really enjoy is getting the chance to meet up with colleagues from Australia and around the world. It’s not often that everyone comes together and it’s great to put faces to names that you email and voices you speak to over the phone.

This afternoon’s Welcome Plenary, by Dr Phoebe Wynn-Pope from the Australian Red Cross, was very inspiring and thought-provoking. She spoke about the work of the Red Cross in bringing humanity to even the most dire of conflicts through international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention. Impartiality is a key feature underpinning this and their aid goes to those in the greatest need, overlooking race, gender and religion. Without this understanding from those involved on all sides of any war, the Red Cross would not be able to deliver their aid.

But, you may ask, what has this got to do with education? Everything apparently. Educating people about the laws of wars – during times of peace and periods of conflict – plays a key role to promoting understanding and tolerance, and pays dividends to ensuring that humanity can be found in the midst of conflict. Certainly some food for thought to start the conference.

I heard many delegates echoing my thoughts during the Welcome Reception, which was a fun way to end to the evening. I still have the samba beats of the SA Samba band ringing in my ears!

Framing International Student Responsibility

September 26, 2015

By Ly Tran, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Deakin University (Australia)

Understanding international student responsibility and institutional responsibility towards international students is essential to ensure and enhance the well-being and educational experience of this group. However, international student responsibility is a notion that is often neglected. Research on student responsibility concentrates exclusively on domestic students and is framed predominantly within the school context in relation to classroom discipline, learning and citizenship education. In practice, the extent to and the ways in which international students and involved parties including parents, teachers, host universities and host communities are responsible for the education, wellbeing and development of international students are rarely spelled out. How to support and gear students towards building and enacting responsibility in an educationally, culturally and ethically productive ways is little known either.

International student responsibility and their capacity to exercise responsibility should not be framed merely within the academic domain. Instead it should be viewed from a relational stance that takes into account the diverse tangible and intangible interrelated aspects of cross-border mobility status. International student responsibility transcends the classroom boundary, extending to the home and host communities and other relationships that have been formed via their mobility experiences. Spatial, intellectual and cultural mobility as a result of overseas education shapes and reshapes students’ perception of their own responsibility and the ways in which they enact their responsibility. Being in educational mobility provides them with the unique transnational social fields to develop responsibility towards the home and host country. This also gives students the condition to perceive and develop responsibility for global citizenship.

International students can exercise both personal and social responsibility. Personal responsibility is the responsibility towards the self as an actor in international education and a member in the classroom community, the social community as well as their family. This is interrelated with the social responsibility. These dimensions of responsibility can be fluid, dynamic and complex as they involve both a sense of obligation and sense of intrinsic commitment. Personal responsibility encompasses the obligation towards their academic learning as well as wellbeing. The status of international students is also often interconnected with a responsibility to ensure a return in their investment in overseas education. In some cultures, efforts towards acquiring a good academic, financial and social return in investment in international education are intimately embedded in the responsibility to fulfil their filial duty and respond to the family’s aspirations.

International student responsibility should also be seen in parallel with their capacity to exercise responsibility. One’s capacity for responsibility can be shifting or developing due to their engagement in cross-border life and in pursuit of education far away from family support and out of cultural comfort zone. Student responsibility is associated with their capacity for rational agency (Ericson and Ellet, 1990:4). Both personal capacity and external opportunities to exercise their agency are essential for students to act responsibly (Bandura, 1977). As personal capacity as well as individual perceptions of responsibility vary among students, the extent to which they act responsibly also differs. Enhancing student responsibility is indeed nurturing good citizenship.

Within the neoliberal commercialisation principle that drives international education, host institutions have been seen to largely hold accountability for providing the educational services for international students who are often positioned as consumers. This practice has to some extent drawn attention away from questions about institutional responsibility for building student capacity for exercising both personal and social responsibility. The locus of institutional responsibility should extend beyond simply providing the educational services to actually enabling international students to develop full capacity to enact responsibility in educationally, culturally and morally productive ways. In order to achieve this, it is important for host institutions to ensure the productive conditions and external opportunities for international students to exercise responsibility as intercultural members and learners. It is also important for host institutions not to ignore the ways in which student mobility intersects with personal agency and personal capacity as well as multiple and transnational logics of legal, social, cultural and academic practices in viewing international student responsibility.


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
Ericson, D. P., & Ellett, F. S. (1990). Taking student responsibility seriously. Educational researcher, 19(9), 3-10.

Interested to find out more? Join Ly Tran and other panellists in the Thursday morning session “Revisiting the responsibility of international students: perspectives from students, institutions and research” at AIEC 2015 in Adelaide this October!

From enquiry to enrolment: the essential toolkit

August 9, 2015

Article by Thijs van Vugt and Julian Longbottom

Thijs van Vugt and Julian Longbottom look at the skills and tools needed to be successful in helping students make the decision to enrol at your university.

In today’s competitive environment, international marketing, recruitment and enrolments are becoming more and more important to universities across the globe. The reality, however, is that most universities are doing very little marketing, but a lot of recruiting… or rather selling. Yet, the follow-up from enquiry to offer letter and enrolment could be done better at many institutions.

A recent StudyPortals and IELTS British Council study of the Top 500 universities in the world revealed that 21 per cent of the world’s Top 500 universities did not respond to enquiries at all. What’s more, 68 per cent of institutions that did reply, didn’t send a second email or reminder (StudyPortals & IELTS British Council, Through Student Eyes, 2014). Australian universities did fairly poorly compared to most others!

essentisl toolkit

Source: Through Student Eyes, StudyPortals & IELTS British Council, 2014

Responding to requests for information has been neglected in many traditional institutions where the focus has been on filtering applicants rather than proactively recruiting new students. But, it is imperative that we reach out when the interest is most relevant and that time is now. Being first also allows the recruitment team to manage expectations that subsequent callers must match or better.

More often than not admissions does not fall under the same responsibilities as marketing and recruitment. As a result admissions staff think their job is done once the offer letter has been sent. The reality, however, is very different. The job is not done until the student has signed on the dotted line and paid their tuition fee. Up until that moment the student can still decide to accept an offer from a competing university – particularly if that offer came from a better quality university or included a full or partial scholarship.

They will also accept an alternative offer if the competing university is faster in following up on the offer letter or done so in a more compelling way by (e.g. a personal phone call from the vice-chancellor or dean). But, most importantly, one has to follow-up and follow-up fast on the offer letter by making sure the student either accepts or rejects their place. Especially, when considering that students apply to at least three, if not five, universities at the same time.

If admissions staff do not have the requisite skillset to follow-up and close the deal (which the marketing and recruitment people hopefully do), then they should at least inform those who do about the admissions decision to follow-up. This is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems come into play.

Good CRM systems, designed specifically for education providers, allow all concerned to see the status of a prospective student’s enquiries, applications, offers, etc. as well as offering the possibility to have a student portal in which the student can track the status of his/her application in real time. At best these portals can be accessed on any device, anywhere in the world.

These systems also provide insight into the sources through which a student may have come in touch with the university (e.g. website), as they allow for source tracking. This will allow you to link enquirers, applicants and commencing students to your marketing activities, whether they be online education portals, AdWords campaigns, education fairs or agents. And once you have this information, calculating the return on investment of your marketing spent becomes quite straightforward.

Interested to find out more? Join our workshop ‘From enquiry to enrolment: the essential toolkit’ at AIEC in Adelaide this October!

Thijs van Vugt is Director and Partner at iE&D Solutions, Europe.
Julian Longbottom is Director Asia Pacific at StudyPortals.


IEAA Excellence Awards 2015: Nominations now open

June 24, 2015

Do you know anyone who’s made an outstanding contribution to international education in Australia? Perhaps you’ve been involved in a ground-breaking project or initiative that showcases innovation and best practice? Here’s your – or an esteemed colleague’s – chance to shine.

IEAA’s Excellence Awards recognise the outstanding contributions by individuals or teams to international education in Australia. They also provide a benchmark of excellence and best practice for the entire industry.

IEAA has awards in the following categories:

  • Distinguished Contribution
  • Excellence in Leadership
  • Best Practice
  • Innovation
  • Excellence in Professional Commentary
  • Outstanding Postgraduate Thesis

Nominations are open until Sunday 5 July 2015. Winners will be announced at AIEC on Tuesday 6 October 2015.

Find out how more at

IEAA Excellence Awards 2015


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