India Presents Biggest International Student Opportunity for Australian Universities

Australia’s international MBA programs may need to change as the growing number of Indian students across the globe could shift the culture.

Australian universities, business schools and MBA programs are expected to face a shift in international student culture in the next decade, as students from India have become increasingly prevalent across the globe.

A new report fromL.E.K. Consulting’s Global Education Practice revealed that while Chinese students still represent Australia’s highest international student population, that demand was estimated to slow in growth from 15% to 5-10% over the next decade.

Across the same timeline, Indian student demand for foreign education has been growing by 15-20% year on year, with more than 400,000 Indian students now seeking study places abroad.

The report suggested that this incremental growth of Indian students would nearly rival Australia’s population of Chinese over the next 10 years. This would have significant effects to the way international study is marketed and delivered, as Chinese students comprise 40% of all international students in Australia and therefore constitute a key revenue source for Australian universities. 

Global Education Practice Partner and report co-author Anip Sharma said that for international programs, including MBAs, Australian universities would need to rethink their approach in order to realise the full potential of the Indian student opportunity.

“There are a number of factors affecting Chinese demand for education, including demographics, economics, and the maturation of the domestic education market,” he said.

“At the same time, the Indian student demand for foreign education has been growing …  faster than any other outbound population internationally, and roughly three times the global growth rate for China. Indian student numbers have also grown more strongly in Australia than in any other market.

“As they have fundamentally different characteristics to Chinese students, universities will need to create new offerings to appeal to this cohort.”

Mr Sharma said Australian universities and government must innovate to appeal to these value conscious students.

“It is likely that Australia’s second tier institutions are better placed to nimbly respond with innovative offerings to suit Indian students. The Go8 can leverage their reputation for high quality to win students away from US and UK institutions,” he said.

“There is also a potential advantage for regional universities in the lower cost of living away from the major cities.”

“Overseas campuses in India, or combined programs that still provide a component in Australia, can help universities create more affordable ways to obtain a degree from an Australian university.

“This can be relevant for students from India but also help Australian universities tap into the wider Asian opportunity.”

“Finally, the Australian government would do well to consider shifts to visa policy that enable students to access limited post-study work opportunities. We know Indian students prefer shorter post-graduate degrees, and aligning post-study work visa requirements with shorter degree duration would help bring Australia in line with international competitors like Canada.”

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (