How can we strengthen social and community connections for international students studying and living in Victoria?

Study Melbourne

Currently in progress.
Check our blog and socials for updates!

Study Melbourne is seeking new ways to help our international student community feel welcome, connected and confident while they study, work and live in Victoria.

The economic and social contribution of international students is a success story for our state.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a huge impact on international students. Many international students have little or no support from family or friends and have reported feeling anxious and isolated.

This has highlighted the need to help international students build strong social connections and support networks during their time in Victoria.

It has also highlighted the need to raise community awareness about the importance of international students to our state and making them feel welcome.

Study Melbourne is seeking innovative solutions to address these issues and create more opportunities for international students to make meaningful connections in Victoria.

Contact us if you have any questions, check out our FAQs page or join us for Office hours.

What’s the problem?

International education is Victoria’s largest services export and has experienced strong growth over the last five years. In 2019 it contributed $12.6 billion to Victoria’s economy and supported around 79,000 jobs.

Word of mouth is everything in international education. While Melbourne is ranked as Australia’s best student city, and the third-best in the world – international students in Victoria have reported relatively low rates of satisfaction with social connectedness. This is a major factor as to whether they would recommend Victoria as a study destination.

Students with lower levels of social connectedness are known to experience higher rates of mental health issues and are less likely to seek help than Australian students.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and on international education providers in Victoria. Responding well to the needs of international students is critical to protecting Victoria’s reputation as a safe, welcoming and quality study destination and ensuring this sector recovers quickly.

The Victorian Government is responding, including through a $45 million international student emergency relief fund, but more needs to be done to help international students develop meaningful connections and feel valued as part of the Victorian community.

What are we looking for in a solution?

International students make up 1 in 7 of Victoria’s youth and 1 in 5 of the residents in Melbourne’s CBD.

We have an opportunity to help shape the lives of thousands of young students from all over the world. Their experiences and ability to connect with others while they are here has a profound impact on their learning and wellbeing.

The three main impacts we are looking for in a solution are that:

We are hoping to see solutions that will lead to a substantial increase in the number of international students that are:

Who are the customers and end-users?

What assets are available to help?

The peak body EduGrowth will be invited to provide technical advice throughout the program, particularly during the accelerator phase. This will ensure successful development and implementation of a viable product and maximise benefit and impact in working with the Victorian sector.

You’re also welcome to base yourselves out of our home at the Victorian Innovation Hub in Docklands and the Study Melbourne Student Centre in Hardware Lane provides direct access to students for customer interviews and user testing.

What is the opportunity for the successful startup?

This challenge would have up to $185,000 in funding which includes:

$5,000 for the Pre-accelerator Stage to fine tune your proposal
$30,000 for the Accelerator Stage to develop an MVP
$150,000 for the contract during the Development Stage to fully develop and deliver the solution

How does CivVic Labs work?

At CivVic Labs, we go out to government departments and agencies and look for big problems that would benefit from new technology.

These challenges are broadcast to the Victorian startup ecosystem and the best solutions progress to an accelerator experience where you develop a Minimum Viable Product in collaboration with a government customer.

At the end of the program, you're in the running to secure up to $185k to fully develop the solution and we support you along the way with co-working space, coaching, workshops and mentoring.

For more on how this works, head here.

Further info on the challenge:

- Given that there are 200K international students is there a sense of scale and scope of the impact they are looking for? Would they prefer breadth and touch more students or depth and allow for more transformative change with a smaller group?

Proposals should consider scale and reach in designing a solution, with Study Melbourne investments aiming to reach ten per cent of the student population. That being said, the innovation of the solution by the startup may be the methodology or new approach to deliver greater impact, which could require greater investment to deliver at scale. I think in terms of scale – we would be looking for a solution that was scalable. We want meaningful engagement with students and community so ideally an appropriate balance of reach and engagement rather than something too superficial to have impact.

One of the insights we have gotten in our initial research is that students will tend to get into limited social circles once they arrive in Australia. Would they be open to solutions that aim to target students before they arrive?

Yes that was discussed in the briefing session.

What are the different mechanisms to currently access students? Do they have existing partnerships with universities? If so, would they be looking at a model where universities would pay to access or students would pay?

We engage and support students across a number of different investments including the Study Melbourne Student Centre, International Student Welfare Program and the LIVE initiative will detailed information on the Study Melbourne website. We have existing relationships and partnerships with international education providers across different sectors including universities, TAFES, private colleges and ELICOS, as you would expect.
Ideally this is something that education providers and/or government would want to support without a cost to students but the per student cost for participation is an important consideration. If the applicant feels a small cost from students is useful to build ownership/commitment to the program then that would be ok too. However, a sustainable model beyond government funding is welcome so that could be co-contributions from education providers, a small cost to students, but it could also be corporate or philanthropic partners noting the aim around increasing connections with the broader community.

Further resources


Contact us at or check out our FAQs page.

Want to know more? Sign up to our newsletter.