In the Global Race for Students, Image Matters - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Last year when reports about a possible tripling of tuition for British students were making headlines at home in England, they also became news around the world. International students began worrying that steep hikes were in store for them as well. Their concerns intensified when the British government said it was tightening student-visa rules and eliminating the right to work after graduation.
What those students didn’t know was that those changes would have little effect on many of them. But in a world where social media move faster than government clarifications, the damage had been done; Britain was gaining a reputation abroad as an unwelcoming place. And the higher-education establishment had to scramble to set the record straight.
As global competition for international students intensifies, reacting swiftly to news coverage as well as to actual changes in government policy has become an essential part of successful international-recruitment. Perceptions, even when flawed, can quickly affect reality, and for leading destination countries, that can translate into lost revenue.
Australia, where international student recruitment declined steeply after an immigration crackdown and a reputational black eye from attacks on Indian students, offers the most telling recent example of the speed with which hard-won international reputations can be compromised.
Only now, some three years after the initial attacks that prompted a wave of negative coverage, especially in the Indian press, have the figures begun to rebound.
The number of student visas granted by Australia in the nine months ending in September was up 30 percent compared with the same period of time a year earlier. The numbers rose sharply for students from India and China, two countries where Australian recruitment efforts had been stumbling.