COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES Quality and flexibility of education offering, QA and student wellbeing, regulatory framework, affordability, proximity, English speaking country, study/leisure lifestyle, study work rights, flexible study/pathways, student support services, multicultural society, industry/government partnership, global recognition of qualifications, government positioning offshore (e.g. Australia's Future Unlimited), PR opportunities, large diasporas, breadth of research.
TOP 5 REASONS FOR CHOOSING AUSTRALIA Reputation of qualification 95% Reputation of education 94% Personal safety and security 93% Quality of research 92% Provider reputation 92%
OVERALL STUDENT SATISFACTION HE 89% VET 87% ELICOS 89% Schools 77%
SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Figure 1. This diagram illustrates the transition of Australia's international education sector, from a cluster of comparative advantages to a single, powerful point of competitive (sustainable) advantage.
Reputational capital: the greatest competitive advantage of them all Reputational capital is the brand your name carries globally, or in a particular market. At the individual company or education provider level, it is what differentiates you from your competition and drives referral and repeat business. Wordof-mouth referrals rely entirely on reputation and cost little or nothing to generate. Some might argue that knowledge is one’s most important asset but, in reality, it is reputation. Reputation capital is about trust; to gain trust you must deliver on what you promise. This is true for the individual, the organisation and the sector in general (Develop your Reputation Capital, Roger Ingbretsen.) 30 | VISTA
Note the prominence of ‘quality’ in four of the five key drivers as to why international students choose to study in Australia. The levels of student satisfaction would be the envy of any company or industry. Indeed, having the courage and foresight to survey 65,000 students lies in stark contrast with many other industries. While levels of customer satisfaction are accessible for leading brands and individual companies, a wholeof-industry picture is hard to come by – except for concentrated industries like airlines, supermarkets, health funds and the Telcos. Where consumer choice is limited to 3–4 options you would expect client satisfaction to be relatively high, although this is not the case with health funds and the Telcos.
Tourism is probably the closet match to international education, in terms of client base, number of industry players and industry/ government partnership. While the tourism industry reports regularly on key data – including number of nights and spend per tourist – I could see no reference to client or tourist visitor feedback. Australia’s international education sector is now strongly positioned globally through its reputational capital, which is providing a powerful, competitive sustainable advantage. It has been estimated that the sector employs 130,000 people throughout Australia (Deloitte Access Economics). It can also be argued that all of these people contribute to the collective value proposition and branding position. It is to the great credit of the many sector and government leaders who have established a collaborative partnership and a regulatory framework conducive to quality assurance, growth, student wellbeing and stability. The 1000s of international students who graduate each year are Australia’s ‘brand’ warriors and activities like alumni engagement and development are clearly of strategic importance. Having reached the tipping point, reputational capital should be front and centre of all individual provider, sector and government activity. It takes time to develop, especially to the point which the international education sector currently enjoys from its ultimate critics (i.e. students). However, reputational capital is also fragile and can be quickly eroded if quality assurance, student wellbeing or service delivery slips. Having worked so tirelessly to achieve a five-star reputational capital rating, it is beholden on all involved in the sector to continue to build on the ‘study in Australia’ brand. David Nelson is Director of Macrofocus.