Motivations, Expectations & Satisfaction of International Postgraduate Students in Australian Universities

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Brisbane, Rachel (2020) Motivations, Expectations & Satisfaction of International Postgraduate Students in Australian Universities. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


International higher education is a significant industry globally. For many Australian universities, as well as the Australian economy overall, it is one of their largest revenue streams. Considerable literature exists on the motivations of universities to export education, especially offshore, and what they consider to be important, but less is known as to whether these considerations are equally valued and prioritised by students coming onshore. It was established that the perspective of international students, as one of the largest stakeholder groups, is often lacking and at best, considered only at a statistical level. Literature on student satisfaction indicated limitations in conceptual approaches, methodology and reporting of outcomes. Furthermore, satisfaction surveys that focus exclusively on academic and operational factors may exclude factors students consider important contributors to satisfaction, that are potentially useful for universities seeking a competitive advantage. An opportunity was identified to expand the current research to utilise a more student-centred approach to understand how students prioritise and other factors contributing to satisfaction that could valuably rebalance the current bias towards institutional perspectives. As many student satisfaction surveys include large numbers of undergraduate student responses, which effectively dilute the experience of other student demographics, this research focused on international postgraduate students. The aims were to investigate nuances within the literature on students’ motivations – for reputation, immigration and affordability. These were: how students prioritise these motivations in their decision making, whether there were other student determined factors important to satisfaction, if campus facilities contribute to greater satisfaction levels, how mobile students are in their study practices, and explore relationships between switching behaviours, and the resulting satisfaction and dissatisfaction. A qualitative survey of international postgraduate students, research and coursework, studying at Australian universities was conducted between June and December 2019, thematically analysed and supported with descriptive statistics. For both research and coursework groups, it was found that reputation, affordability and immigration opportunities were secondary motivators for students, with the primary motivation to improve employment opportunities. However, overall affordability often becomes an issue once studies are underway. Student-identified factors contributing to satisfaction included the experience of classroom diversity, social connections, the western learning environment and opportunities for professional work in conjunction with study. Regarding their preferences these students were less likely to take up options to study more flexibly, preferring to study where there are full campus facilities. It was found that switching behaviours were not a reliable indicator of satisfaction. They merely highlighted the effectiveness of structural barriers (such as administrative paperwork), a lack of alternatives offering significant improvement for the effort of changing and at best, students who were more or less satisfied but had already decided to change prior to enrolling as it was a route to the preferred university. However, when students were dissatisfied with their university, the universities’ reputation became more important, becoming a critical motivator to persevere and complete the qualification. An area for improvement lies with international postgraduate research students whose experiences were more polarised.

Additional Information

Doctor of Business Administration

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > Graduate School of Business
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords reputation; affordability; immigration; international students; postgraduate students; Australia; universities; higher education; student satisfaction; motivation; student satisfactions surveys
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