Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Graeme Lock

Second Advisor

Dr Mandie Shean

Abstract

The global higher education sector has become increasingly competitive. A large segment of that market now consists of attracting international students. Understanding why these students are motivated to study overseas is crucial for universities seeking to attract the transnational students as well as for the host country. Trading education is now Australia’s third largest export. As the international market for students becomes more crowded, it is imperative that thorough and concise research occurs to assist local universities within Australia to maintain their competitive advantage.

Perth, Western Australia (WA) comprises a small segment of the international Australian tertiary education market. An insufficient evidence base exists to aid local universities with strategic planning to maintain their competitive advantage in attracting international students. The current literature is sparse in analysing Australian state based international student decision-making. Most research focuses upon a generalised understanding of international student motivations concentrating on specific motivational factors.

To enrich and contribute to the current research literature, a comprehensive qualitative study was undertaken to explore the decision-making processes of postgraduate international students who chose to study in Perth. The research explored how and why these students chose Perth as their study destination. The study employed a variety of decision-making theories, most importantly the Push-Pull Theory of international student decision-making to test the applicability of a generalised model of international student flows on the local market.

Data sources included international postgraduate students who are currently or have completed their studies at a public university in Perth. Data were collected using a variety of qualitative instruments including semi structured open-ended interviews and a focus group.

The findings suggested that postgraduate students in Perth are sensitive to course price, with those on scholarships submitting such an undertaking would otherwise be impossible. Students, particularly from countries suffering economic or political disruptions considered international study as a pathway to immigration. These participants viewed Australia as a stable and prosperous nation, which offered them a ‘good life’ without the problems of their home countries. Most participants also considered WA as a culturally pluralistic destination, with a relaxed and outdoor lifestyle, without the pressures and costs of larger Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Participants also sought to choose their preferred university on the recommendation of family or friends.

The study has implications for how Australian universities market their courses to international students. The study contributes to the growing literature on international student decision-making. This knowledge is critical to both recruitment strategies and government policies to continue to attract international students.

Available for download on Saturday, December 21, 2019

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