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Trade and Investment Commissioner Update: Craig Ford — Austrade Mexico

03 Nov 2021

Craig Ford, Trade and Investment Commissioner, Latin America shares a region update on opportunities for education organisations across ELICOS, VET and higher education across Latin America. The top five region trends outline how Australian education providers can share their marketing messages when engaging students from the region.

Three messages about Latin America and education:

  • as students start to move to Australia, this is a region of ongoing opportunity
  • acknowledging the familiar competition
  • a region with misperceptions of Australia and those perceptions from Australia back to LatAm as well

Latin America education in Australia

The region was worth $2.3 billion in education exports to the Australian economy in 2019. The growth rate from 2004-2019 was the fastest of any other education export region. Right now, Colombia and Brazil have the 5th and 6th largest student populations in AU.

However, we know these numbers are dominated by VET and ELICOS, and there is a much lower representation of higher education, in fact Australia had just 3 per cent higher education market share in LatAm in 2018.

However, some of the factors which have made VET/ELICOS successful can be transferable to higher education. There is certainly an increasing recognition of Australia as a study destination – but we still have some work to do to:

  • properly capitalise on pathways, particularly ELICOS and;
  • convert a broad awareness of Australia to in-depth knowledge about the quality of education systems including in regional areas

Where to compete in Latin America?

New and emerging providers to the region could be forgiven for thinking that Brazil and Colombia are primary points of entry, and further market development could result from there.

The reality however is that we have six unique markets that offer different opportunities based on what the Australian provider is bringing here. The COVID-19 environment has forced more education interaction online, this also provides us the opportunity to look beyond major cities to explore niches and engage with different partners and agents in new areas, based on demand/supply fit.

So, now is a good time to start exploring those lesser developed regions and our Education team here in LatAm can tell you a little more about that.

Competition in-market

I mentioned familiar competition, so it’s important to understand who in the region we are best to compete and position ourselves against.

Clearly, students going to institutions in Spain, Portugal and parts of the US with Spanish speaking populations greater than the average — well those locations and institutions are going to be very difficult to compete against. Often students are going there for family, culture, and language reasons.

However — we can compete on fairly equal terms with institutions from Canada, Ireland and the UK. Increasingly we're seeing English language programs in Western Europe are attracting a good number of students from LatAm and that is fair market share for us to position against.

Top five trends for Latin America that shape marketing

In terms of the top five trends for the region it's hard to go past the question of affordability. We are asked onshore in Australia can Latin American students increasingly afford us?

I think that the answer to that is yes. We say that because we recently commissioned an Ernst and Young report comparing Australian costs and perceptions to other markets.

Australia did compare favourably, so the answer is that students are choosing to go to destinations that are higher cost than Australia for a higher education.

A second trend, I would say is that there continues to be a low brand awareness of the academic quality in Australia. Work needs to be done by ourselves and others, to continue to communicate the depth and diversity of academic quality in Australia.

A third trend is the online revenue model. In this region we are seeing providers from other markets come in quite aggressively with very low-cost offerings online for later in-country study. What that means is generally students here are not prepared to pay the same as they would offshore for a degree. They are prepared to pay but a little bit less for the online component.

Fourth is regional unrest. This region has unfortunately had some unrest even preceding COVID-19. That unrest often translates to opportunity, as students and often those parents are looking for brighter, long-term futures for their kids and themselves.

And lastly, I think is a really important point, Australia from this region is perceived as unfamiliar, a little bit too far away. I think now in Australia we really can market our Latin American community. We have big populations of Brazilian and Colombian students and some other markets of course as well. Sure, they're concentrated in some different cities but I think it goes a long way towards us being able to say there is a sizeable community that is familiar to the Latin American market.

Lastly, Austrade Latin America education team has launched the LATAM Study Australia Experience, a digital platform to deliver events and leads to providers over several months, culminating in a two-day digital student fair. This student engagement platform will run across the region and focus on the six major Latin America markets — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. The platform will deliver an interactive series of virtual events leading up to the student fair, including webinars, master classes and online panels, while also seeking to develop and extend partnerships and student lead enquiries for Australian institutions.

To explain how this project will be delivered and how to participate, the Austrade education team in Latin America is holding a webinar (Info Session) on 9 November from 10 AM (AEST). Please register your interest in attending.

Please do reach out to myself or any one of our team to connect or to learn more about how we can work together.

For further information on international education in Latin America, please download: Trade and Investment Commission update — Latin America.pdf

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