New joint research from international management consultancy Nous Group and leading global education provider Navitas reveals a gap between ambition and capability as the higher education sector prepares for a period of intense competition.

The new report, Thriving in a hyper-competitive world, explores the internationalisation agendas, priorities and opportunities of more than 100 senior operational and strategic leaders with responsibility for international education and global engagement at universities in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Of the university leaders surveyed, over 90 per cent agreed internationalisation was a high priority for their institution and more than three quarters stated it was well supported across senior levels of their institution. Despite this sentiment, only two in every five respondents agree they have adequate resourcing in place to deliver on their strategy.

Nous Principal Matt Durnin said: “Internationalisation strategies have become more complex in recent years. The pandemic created an immediate need for universities to diversify their approach, to investigate new ways of engaging with students and deliver learning across closed borders.

“Today internationalisation includes affiliations and partnerships, transnational education and offshore brand campuses, however, international student recruitment is still the most important area of focus for university leaders due to its pivotal role in revenue generation.”

Nearly all (96 per cent) respondents rate international student recruitment as very or extremely important to their internationalisation strategy. The same proportion of respondents also believe that competition to recruit international students over the next three years will be higher or much higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Navitas Global Head of Insights and Analytics Jon Chew said: “This report demonstrates the significant responsibilities that international education leaders bear within their institutions and the sheer weight of expectations that come with such a prominent portfolio. In the face of significant external challenges and internal constraints, international education leaders need to make strategic decisions around key areas of focus, investment priorities and partnerships.”

According to the report, international offices are employing several levers to support recruitment efforts and the greatest increase in planned investment will be directed towards activities to grow international students from countries which are currently under-represented.

Universities are directing investment towards additional staffing, agent agreements, targeted scholarships in select markets, as well as data-informed marketing campaigns, course search platforms and agent aggregators.

Alongside these investment activities, most international education leaders are reporting an expected return to pre-pandemic international student fee increases over the next one to two years. This follows a period of suppressed or negligible fee increases between 2020 and 2022.

Mr Durnin added: “While there may be lingering global uncertainty and a relatively high level of risk in the macro-economic environment, our research shows university leaders are optimistic and hungry to recover losses brought about by the pandemic. To achieve their internationalisation agendas, universities will need to ensure they have the right governance, planning and capability in place alongside their appetite to invest.”

About the Survey

The inaugural Global Survey of International Education Leaders online survey was completed by 100 senior operational and strategic leaders with responsibilities for international education and global engagement at universities in Australia, Canada and the UK between August and November 2022. Typical respondent roles included Deputy Vice Chancellor (International), Pro Vice Chancellor (International), Vice President (International) and Director (International). Survey results were supplemented by additional commentary and insight from Navitas and Nous Group consultants.

About Nous Group

Nous Group is an international management consultancy with over 700 people working across Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

Nous’ broad consulting capability spans strategy, organisational performance, leadership and capability, transformation and implementation, economics, public policy, data and analytics, digital and design. By partnering with clients and complementing their strengths, Nous helps businesses, governments and community organisations transform to realise a bigger idea of success.

Founded in Australia, Nous has been delivering positive influence that significantly improves people’s lives since 1999. 

About Navitas

Navitas Pty Ltd is an Australian global education leader providing pre-university and university programs, English language courses, migrant education and settlement services, creative media education, student recruitment, professional development and corporate training services to more than 70,000 aspirational learners across a global network of over 120 colleges and campuses in 24 countries each year.

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