The international student market is a highly competitive one with the development and implementation of effective marketing and recruitment strategies critical for universities that wish to be successful in this market. Central to the development of any marketing strategy is the concept of market segmentation. This paper examines the market segmentation practices of fourteen leading Australian universities to determine how and why they approach the issue of segmenting their international student markets.
All the universities studied adopted a multi-domestic or country by country approach to segmenting their international student markets with only macro level variables considered important. This approach appears to be driven by three factors, current reporting structures within universities, limited marketing research data and a level of comfort amongst marketing mangers with current segmentation practices. Based on the extant literature this paper highlights the weaknesses in this segmentation approach and argues for the adoption of a more consumer oriented approach such as benefit segmentation. The paper concludes that universities that ignore the potential benefits that improved market segmentation practices can deliver may over time begin to lose any competitive position they currently enjoy in the international student market.