Australia’s attractive location and progressive visa policies have made it a rising force in business education.
The number of international students choosing to study in Australia has surged over the past few years, with numbers routinely increasing by 12 to 14 percent each year. In fact, the country has overtaken the UK as the world’s second-biggest destination for overseas students overall, behind the US, according to University College London’s Center for Global Higher Education.
Business schools are at the heart of the growth in overseas students in Australia, with many attracted by the sense of wanderlust. Australia is famed for its beaches, balmy weather and natural assets, with its major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne consistently ranked as some of the most livable in the world.
Australia has five of the 30 best cities in the world for students as ranked by QS based on student mix, affordability, quality of life, and employer activity. “Australian cities are as highly rated as their institutions,” says Kyle Bruce, director of the Master of Management program at Macquarie Business School on the outskirts of Sydney.
Australia’s reputation for teaching and research is strong. With over 22,000 courses across 1,100 institutions, Australia’s higher education market is worth A$2bn and it sits above the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and Japan, ranking eighth in the Universitas U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems. Australia is also a proud contributor to global research, credited for many important discoveries, such as penicillin, IVF and wi-fi.
Australian Master’s in Management (MiM) courses are also relatively cheap when compared with offerings in Europe and the US. The falling Australian dollar has reduced the real cost of study for international students.
Financial support has also come from the Australian Federal Government, which in April 2019 announced a $94m “Destination Australia” grants program, providing both domestic and international students with 4,720 scholarships worth up to A$15,000 a year to study in Australia.
In addition, it was announced that international students could apply for an extra year on a post-study work visa — which usually grants two or four years of residence — if they study in a regional area such as Adelaide and wider South Australia.
“The Australian Federal Government recognizes international education as one of the five super growth sectors contributing to Australia’s transition from a resources-based economy to a modern services economy,” says Gabrielle Rolan, pro vice chancellor (international) at the University of South Australia (UniSA) Business School in Adelaide.
John Shields, academic director international at the University of Sydney Business School, says: “The post study work visa makes it possible for an international student who completed two years of full-time study at an Australian university to remain in Australia for full-time employment for up to two years. This is a particularly attractive option for grads from India, China, and Latin America.”
“Australia is a stable, inclusive, welcoming, liberal and multi-cultural democracy,” he adds.
However, work visas in Australia are only awarded for those who have studied at least 16 months in the country, so many Master’s in Management programs — which often run for just one year — are not eligible.
Still, this may not matter much as many overseas students see Australia as a gateway to the fast-growing economies in the wider Asia Pacific region. Australian business schools have sought to develop closer ties with the region, capitalizing on their shared time zones and close proximity. For example, Shields says students on Sydney Business School’s MSc in Management can do an immersion in China.
With Australia having sustained a record run of almost 28 years without recession, career prospects look bright for those who do stay in Australia post-graduation. Rolan at UniSA Business School says that the local economy has strengths in healthcare, engineering, food and wine, the creative, high technology and advanced manufacturing sectors. It’s home to global giants such as Microsoft, BHP and the Big Four accounting firms.
“From part-time work to industry placements, students have opportunities to link their education with industry,” Rolan says.
Shields says that in addition to the more traditional parts of the Australian economy, including mining and agriculture, cities like Sydney have strong financial services and technology sectors. “Many companies are looking to hire graduates for global operations,” he says.
But one major downside to studying and working in Australia is the high cost of living in many cities including Sydney and Melbourne. “It is significantly higher in Australia than in many other parts of the world,” says Bruce at Macquarie Business School.
But he points out that average wages are also higher in Australia than in many other nations.
While Australian business schools are rising up the global pecking order, they remain some way off those in Europe, which pioneered the MiM degree decades ago. Only one Australian institution is ranked by either the Financial Times or The Economist, publications that produce trusted league tables. This could hamper the growth in popularity of Australian Master’s in Management programs overseas, since rankings remain important factors in prospective students’ school choice.
Bruce says the challenge for Australian schools is the relative newness of Master’s in Management courses in the country. Most students are from Asia, markets that “simply don’t know the MiM degree as well as the MBA”.
He adds that the school needs to better promote MiM programs and document the advantages of employers hiring from MiM programs, which are for those with little or no work experience rather than MBAs that are for experienced managers.
For Sydney Business School, promotion is already bearing fruit. “We do already attract significant numbers of students from the EU and UK,” says Shields. “We believe that this is attributable to our unique combination of European educational heritage and the rise of Asia as the economic dynamo of the 21st century.”