What makes international students happy

After two terrible COVID results, international student satisfaction with their education experience is back on track, demonstrated by 2022 survey results from the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey.

In a result that raises big issues for student service strategies, internationals last year were just about as happy as locals.

After super statistically-significant falls in the lock-down years, 74  per cent of international students report overall satisfaction with their education experience in 2022, in-comparison to 76 per cent for Australian residents – the closest QILT has ever reported.

The internationals are happier because they were glad to be back, or starting, on campus in-person.

”International students are much more dependent on campus for their social interaction and community and they rely  on resources there – study spaces and support services,” a veteran observer of the student experience suggests.

Just how much happier they were last year is revealed in a core measure of satisfaction – learner engagement.

QILT creates a score for this category based on five responses, including interactions with other students in and outside class, notably “a sense of belonging to the institution,” and crucially, contact with people “who are very different from you.”

“Making friends is the most important aspect of international students’ life-experience” a close-watcher of QILT says.

On engagement, international UGs were way happier last year, with 61 per cent positive – up from 45 per cent in 2021. This was higher than the domestic students’ score (48 per cent in ’21 to 54 in 2022)

This could be a one-off. The challenge for universities that rely, really rely, on international student income is to make sure it isn’t.

QILT identifies six universities with large shares of international students responding to the 2022 survey – their results for UG learner engagement all improved.

Monash U: was up a bunch from 42 per cent in 2021 to 61 per cent last year

UNSW: rose from 42 per cent to 59 per cent

ACU: was doing something relatively right or at least consistent, in and out of lock down, 2021: 61 per cent, 2022: 63 per cent

Uni Sydney: improved from 39 per cent to 56 per cent

Uni Queensland: was a big mover, but it needed to be, from 33 per cent to 57 per cent

Uni Melbourne:  ditto,improvingfrom 31 per cent to 52 per cent

But they were all way behind the all-size top performers for ’22, including some small campuses, which clearly helps – Avondale had an 80 per cent rating and Bond U 70 per cent. But it isn’t all about the personal touch; with some large-ish universities doing well. James Cook U scored 69 per cent, Victoria U 67 per cent and Central Queensland U 66 per cent. 



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