Factors that influence international student decision making

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Understanding International Education

Over the past three decades, the internationalization of education has seen a major growth across the world. In the 1990s, education became more international on the basis of providing services (ICEF Monitor, 2015). However, in the recent past, globalization has influenced internationalization of education with an intention of going beyond service provision to profit-making by universities (ICEF Monitor, 2015). Claims has been an increase in the total foreign students, especially in Australia (ICEF Monitor, 2015). In a general view point, internationalized education is on the rise because a significant number of factors, globalization being among them.

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According to Plank and Sykes (2003), international education has been in high demand, particularly from students from Asia and Africa. The increasing competition in the international education industry by countries has caused an interest to study the factors that influence the academic choices and decisions of international students (Plank & Sykes, 2003). According to Berdan, Goodman, and Taylor (2013), the choices of most of these students are based on the question: why do students need to study abroad rather than locally? The various responses to this question provide the various factors that influence international students’ decisions (Plank & Sykes, 2003). Some of them include the quality of education, education costs, and inadequate education resources in the home state (Plank & Sykes, 2003). These factors motivate a student to move out of the home country to look for better opportunities in host countries .

Decision Influencers

Mazzarol and Soutar (2002) noted that inadequate education in the home nation is among the “push” factors that influence international students’ decision to study in a foreign country. This factor is very related to another “pull” factor – the quality of education provided by the host country (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002 ). The “push” factors are created by the local environment while the “pull” factors are created by the environment of the host country (Plank & Sykes, 2003). Lack of adequate quality education in the host country will propel the need to study abroad (Plank & Sykes, 2003). Similarly, quality education evidenced by quality facilities and reputational institutions will motivate students to move out of their countries and cross borders to seek for the quality education services (Plank & Sykes, 2003). Clearly, people would want to stay close to an area where they feel they are comfortable because it is in the human nature. Quality education services enhance the lives of foreign students.

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Another factor influencing the decisions by students to study abroad is the availability of information about international education (ICEF Monitor, 2015). In other words, the strategy used by the host countries to market their internationalized education can influence the decisions of foreign students. In order to understand the application of this factor, Mazzarol and Soutar (2002) used the example of the US which is a host nation to most of the international students worldwide. The huge numbers of international students in the country are majorly attributed to the widespread information about the country across the world (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). “American domination of the world’s media and news services in the second half of the Twentieth Century has assisted in this process, as has film and television” (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002 ). Information is critical in expanding the knowledge of beings and being informed is a recipe for making conscious decisions pertaining to vital issues influencing one’s lives.

The choice of studying abroad is often influenced by family members who even facilitate the greatest part of the travel (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). Family influence is considered strong among the undergraduate students. Plank and Sykes (2003) agreed with Mazzarol and Soutar (2002) in supporting the role played by not only family members but also friends and peers in informing the selection of countries to study by students. These people offer opinions and suggestions on the account of the quality and the level of education provided in a foreign country (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). From a series of group discussions with foreign learners in Taiwan and Indonesia, it was observed that the involvement of parents in decision-making was mostly highlighted (ICEF Monitor, 2015). Some of the young female students would have preferred going to the US but their parents had them sent Indonesia (ICEF Monitor, 2015). Family and friends are influential in decision making of international students because of the high levels of trust accorded to them and their primary responsibility of care for their children.

Moreover, the cost of education has been also cited as a significant factor that influences a student’s options for foreign learning institutions (ICEF Monitor, 2015). The cost of education in a foreign nation incorporates the cost of living in that country, the direct fee costs, and other unintended costs like the opportunity cost of staying at home country (Mazzarol & Soutar 2002). Students would also want to weigh the living expenses and the possibility of working in the host country while studying (Mazzarol & Soutar 2002). More often, foreign would prefer countries that allow them to undertake part time work as they also study (ICEF Monitor, 2015). Part-time working greatly aids international students to improve their living in the foreign countries as they study hence considered as a critical element to decision-making.

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  1. Berdan, S., Goodman, A., & Taylor, C. (2013). A Student Guide to Study Abroad. Cork, BookBaby, pp 20-25.
  2. Group of Eight Australia. (2014), ‘Backgrounder International student motivation’.
  3. ICEF Monitor. (2015), ‘The state of international student mobility in 2015’.
  4. Mazzarol, T and Soutar.N, G (2002)’Push-pull” factors influencing international student destination choicet’, International Journal of Education Management, 16, Issue 2, pp. 82-90.
  5. Plank, D. N., & Sykes, G. (2003). Choosing choice: school choice in international perspective. New York, Teachers College Press, pp 4.
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