Tag Archives: ACADEMIA

$20 bln Education Services Sector About to be Testsed

photodune-5908922-education-lAustralia’s education services sector is now a $20 billion export industry as universities and vocational education & training (VET) institutions enjoy double-digit year-on-year growth.  The attractiveness of Australia to international students, particularly those from neighbouring Asia-Pacific nations, is rightly a source of national pride. But how long can it last? In this article Horizon examines the challenges which lie ahead for education services and what marketers can do to protect their share of lucrative international student revenues.

 Disruption to education services is good old fashioned competition

US colleges are waking up to the revenue potential on offer from international students. Soon this will translate into aggressive marketing campaigns that will challenge Australia’s education institutions to more effectively market and position their services, notwithstanding ‘brand Australia’.

Department of Education & Training research highlights the risks of a waking US giant. Although globally the revenue pie attributed to international students is growing, the new push by US institutions positioning their offers to market will be formidable. Its colleges dominate all global rankings and can offer career pathways directly to numerous multinational corporations.

Whilst ‘brand Australia’ will remain an attractive plus-point, the reputation of our institutions is the major drawcard for international students. This can be undercut by US Ivy League universities which can rightfully point to stronger academic achievements and overall output.

The successful agency models which Australian universities and VET institutions have engaged could also be under threat by a newly enlightened US competitor.  Expect its universities to either threaten our existing agency relationships or create newer, larger models.

Death by a thousand cuts

Whilst US competition has the potential to inflict rapid pain to revenues in the Australian education services sector, the more serious slow, but systemic decline, could come from within our biggest student sourcing countries (i.e. China, India, Japan and South Korea) as they raise the quality and output of their own tertiary education and vocational training – including English tuition, to rival the current global elite.

China recently made its intentions clear. It wants to have world-leading universities and disciplines by 2030. This is not an unrealistic goal. In 1996 academic citations from US universities outranked those from China by 55-1. By 2014 this had shrunk to 2.5-1. From 1996-2014 overall academic output by USA universities grew by 60%. In China it grew by 1,600% (SOURCE: http://www.scimagojr.com/countryrank.php).

Global university rankings are beginning to reflect the rising output and quality of Asian universities as names like NUS (Singapore), Peking University (China), KAIST (South Korea) and Tokyo University (Japan) become mainstays inside most global top 50 ranking lists.

Stories which will shape successful outcomes for Australian businesses

Universities by nature create content – lots of content. With the right strategy this content can be used as effective marketing collateral to lure prospective international students – stories and news which positions the Australian education experience and drives close engagement with tomorrow’s international students.

To counter direct in-market marketing by US and local institutions, Australian universities will need to mobilise and amplify advocacy networks in countries where our market share is about to be challenged. Our universities and VET institutes have strong alumni networks, built up over many over recent years, particularly throughout Asia-Pacific. Mobilising those voices for strategic marketing purposes will help protect the value proposition of education in Australia, notwithstanding as the international student experience in Australia.

Boots on the ground

Strategic marketing through existing channels may not be enough. Counsel and resources from local marketing and communications professionals may be necessary to exploit latent opportunities which are not known here, and tap into the consciousness of publics in our target markets from an insider perspective.

Content partnerships which help to positively elevate brand Australia internationally could very effectively drive positive influence among target audiences in the Asia-Pacific.

If you’d like to learn more about how communications can help amplify your university’s brand wither here or abroad, contact Horizon Communication Group. We have deep experience in the education sector as well as direct experience working throughout the Asia-Pacific.

First published in http://www.horizoncg.com.au

PUBLIC RELATIONS DOUBLE MURDER! MESSENGER & MESSAGE DEAD

drkarlman1

Yesterday’s stunning declarations by Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, withdrawing his support for the Australian government’s Intergenerational Report (IGR), is an act of self-immolation on a level rarely seen in Australian public discourse.  For readers unfamiliar with the story so far, here is a brief summary.

1. Aiming to communicate the rationalisation behind proposed (but not yet passed) budgetary cuts revealed in the 2014 budget, and expected to again be central to the 2015 budget due in May, Treasury released the IGR on March 5.  The IGR featured costed analyses of the Australian economy in 2055 predicated on three scenarios: (1) a continuation of budgetary expenditure at the levels supported by the Labor government when it left office in 2013; (2) the passing of new policies proposed in the 2014 budget (i.e. those which remain locked in the Australian Senate); and (3) a sort of Goldilocks scenario which assumes the passing of some of the 2014 budget measures but not all, presumably designed to set the stage for next month’s 2015 budget which will be framed as the compromise we have to have.

2. The three scenarios presented in the IGR were widely criticised as unrealistic as each one assumed uninterrupted continuance for 40 years.  For example, scenario #1 suggests the massive cost blowouts which would occur under Labor’s 2013 expenditures would be allowed to continue until 2055 despite the obvious threat to the economy such an approach would pose each and every year until 2055.  Likewise, for scenario #2 to become reality the Australian public would be expected to live through 40 years of the severe budget measures proposed in 2014, presumably so our grandchildren can enjoy the benefits of a massive surplus in 2055.  That surplus is predicated only on revenues which we can forecast today, an assumption which suggests our economy will create no additional growth drivers for 40 years!

3. With such fuzzy logic it is little wonder the IGR generated so much criticism.  Enter the PR spin doctors.  Asked to cultivate reasoned public discourse about the future of the Australian economy a coalition of PR, research and advertising firms created a campaign using well-known science guru Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki as spokesperson.

The research firm involved conducted focus groups and polling of 1200 people to aid the strategy development behind the campaign.  One suspects the selection of Dr. Karl came as a result of that polling for it would come as no surprise if focus group research found Dr. Karl to be considered intelligent, rationale, non-partisan, trusted, etc.  A scientific voice to push through the politics.

Where the strategy failed and where Dr. Karl has failed the strategy, is that the IGR has no credibility as a scientific document as the summary above explains.  Paying a scientist to speak in favour of the IGR will not convince the public that the IGR has credibility as a work of scientific research, a fact Dr. Karl is now beginning to realise.  His stunning admission that he only participated in the campaign for the money and that he failed to do his own scientific due diligence in analysing the IGR before publicly supporting it has destroyed his credibility whilst further damaging the credibility of the IGR and the government.

A much bigger issue lies at the core of the Dr. Karl fiasco – the credibility of science and academia.  The purchasing of ‘scientific endorsement’ is not new to an increasingly informed and interconnected public.  We’ve seen it in the climate skepticism strategy financed by big oil.  We’ve seen it in the disgraced academia who failed to declare conflicts of interest when providing their own version of ‘cash for comment’ as voices of academic/ scientific reason and impartiality when they publicly supported key economic regulatory reforms favorable to large US financial institutions prior to the Global Financial Crisis.

The founder of a global food and beverage company and self-made millionaire once told me that money is trust.  I wonder how much Dr. Karl believed his trust to be worth before he agreed to support assertions arrived at without proper scientific diligence.  I suspect he will be forming the view that trust should remain priceless.