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As the world’s fifth-most populous country with a large youth population that is keen to broaden their educational horizons, Pakistan has a lot to offer the international education sector. Since IDP expanded into Pakistan three years ago, we have seen a significant uptick in student demand as this region’s significant potential for growth has presented key opportunities for destination markets.

We recently chatted with IDP Country Director PakistanMuhammad Humayun Bin Akram, to explore the trends and patterns of the Pakistani student market and what Australian and New Zealand institutions can do to attract prospective students.

Since the Australian and New Zealand borders have opened to Pakistani students, what is the current sentiment of students and parents?

After waiting for two years with borders closure, parents and students are relieved that the borders are finally open and most of visa holders are finally studying on campus now. There is no doubt that Australia and New Zealand were overlooked by students and parents amid border restrictions, but they have now started to consider it again as their first-choice study destination and we can see this excitement growing every day.

We have seen on IDP Connect’s IQ Demand Tracker tool that demand share for Pakistan has increased for Australia. Have you noticed a noticeable difference compared to this time last year?

Australia has always been a popular destination, however students have been more inclined towards UK and other study destinations during the pandemic, so we’re just starting to see a demand spike after the border opening news. We have also witnessed an increase in client participation and registrations for IDP events and activities which is great to see.

As the global competitive market is strong, what should Australian and New Zealand institutions be doing to stand apart and attract prospective students from Pakistan?

To stand apart in a globally competitive marketplace, institutions needs to participate in physical study abroad fairs in Pakistan as that can greatly impact the motivation of students aspiring to study in Australia and New Zealand. It’s important to promote your destination / institution as a welcoming environment for foreign students and to promote post-study work rights.

Institutions should also provide some more country specific scholarships and those students who were studying online should be compensated. Delay in Visa turnaround time is still a critical domain of Australia and institutions should play their part to advocate on the student’s behalf to the embassy. Flexibility in entry requirements would create an impact initially, however another tip would be to reduce the initial deposit amount to attract more students.

From a counsellor perspective, how has FastLane helped to streamline the application process for prospective students? And why do you think it’s so important for institutions to onboard with FastLane?

FastLane has streamlined the application process in terms of student’s course choices and has reduced offer turnaround time, and its unique offer in principle service gives students a greater assurance and motivation to apply. Since IDP is the only agent providing this service, institutions should really consider this as an opportunity to promote their brand across a broader pool of applicants. Furthermore, it provides institutions real-time visibility of the applicant's pipeline.

What type of content and messaging do students want to see from institutions? What resonates with them most when considering their study destination?

Students are most interested in scholarships, cost of living, affordability, as well as post study work opportunities after graduation along with immigration options, so highlighting that type of content in your targeted messaging will help garner their interest. They are also interested in seeing the variety of courses available at your institution.

Are you seeing higher interest for postgraduate or undergraduate study? What courses seem to be the most popular?

Pakistan is predominately a postgraduate-driven market; however, the following courses are the most popular in both UG & PG: Engineering (all specialisations), IT, Computer Science, Business Analytics, Information Systems, Accounting, and Marketing.

How can institutions use alumni stories and social media to attract prospective students?

Students love to hear a successful story and alumni stories can play a critical role to attract Pakistani talent towards Australia and even to broaden the potential student market by listening to testimonials and meeting with alumni face-to-face. Institutions should consider arranging sessions with prospective students from Pakistan so that they can ask direct questions from alumni. Likewise, social media can be used for alumni testimonials, on-campus vlogs, brand ambassador plugs/Q&As, important updates, courses, scholarships, campus visits, and student services provided by the institutions.

What are you looking forward to most in the next couple of years?

In the coming years we are expecting a big boost in student demand and for Australia as a key study destination to continue to rise in the ranks. With recent changes and border opening news, there is a lot of anticipation among parents and the students and with collective efforts, we are quite hopeful that Australia and New Zealand will bounce back.

Equally, I am excited to see the Pakistani student market continue to grow. The pandemic brought immediate challenges right at the beginning of our launch, however, we remained resilient and focused. This in turn consolidated our position and we are now expanding rapidly, with more virtual and physical offices launching across the country. I’m thrilled to be working at IDP as we transition out of the pandemic into this exciting time towards a revival, rebound and acceleration.

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Sophie Tudor
Sophie Tudor02 June 2022