Category: China

Marketing mistakes education institutions make in China (and how to avoid them)

 “Hosting Chinese marketing content on inaccessible websites is wasted effort and never going to work”

Jonathan Kalies, Head of CRM at eduFair China, summarises the mistakes made by international institutions when marketing in China, with some suggestions added for improvement.

Having worked across a number of professions within international recruitment and education in China, one aspect that intrigues me most is how international institutions market themselves in China.

Understanding the China of today seems to be a key issue here. Though there are some fantastic marketing campaigns out there which have managed to break through the ‘Great Wall’, mistakes invariably do occur. I’ve whittled them down to four key areas…
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As Head of CRM at eduFair China, Jonathan has spent the last 6 years living in China working within a number of areas of international education. His first hand experience with both Chinese students and international institutions has allowed him to see the change from within the student recruitment industry and thus provide some insight.

What do foreign universities need to know about establishing institutional partnerships in China?

“MOE approval is very difficult. The approval criteria is that the foreign partner university has to be a very good one, if not the best in its country”

Shuai Yang, senior consultant at BOSSA, answers some common questions foreign institutions have about 3+1 and 2+2 arrangements with Chinese universities.

For foreign institutions wanting to partner with Chinese schools, they must submit applications to the national/state ministries of education to get approval. Is that true?
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Shuai Yang is senior consultant at the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association.

How to attract Chinese students: four tips for overseas universities

“Chinese parents and students are in an investment mindset when they are looking to study overseas”

Susan Fang, CEO of Academic Powerhouse, writes about what Chinese students and parents look for in an overseas university. Part of OxBridge Holdings, Academic Powerhouse is a leading educational consultancy providing independent and professional advice on all aspects of UK education as well as all aspects of China and Far East education.

Studying overseas has become a fashion, a new normal in China.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, 459,800 Chinese students went abroad in 2014, an 11.1% increase over the year before. China has now become the world’s top source of overseas students, with 14% of the global total.
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‘Fitting in’: the emergence of short-term programs

“I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months?”

After writing for The PIE Blog on the unexpected challenges that can crop up during a homestay, Mary Beth Brungardt writes about the value of short-term study abroad.

It has been exactly one week since I arrived to China. Today I joked with a friend that I have not used a fork in seven days, which led to a discussion recapping everything we have learned in such a short period of time.

The growing popularity of short-term study abroad programs has started a debate among professionals and educators in the field. Are these short-term programs more than just an ‘academic trip?’ Does the length of a program dictate whether or not we should label the experience as ‘study abroad?’

There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods of time away from home, and those who are restricted by certain curriculum requirements. As a result, summer, May, and ‘J’ term programs are becoming increasingly popular among university and high school students. These programs allow us to “fit” the experience into our schedule, and require less commitment.

“There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods away from home, and those who are restricted by curriculum requirements”

As a junior in high school, I packed my bags and headed out to Spain on a year-long program. At the time, I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months? By the time you establish a routine, it would be time to go home.

Despite these disadvantages, short-term programs play a critical role in international education. Spending a few weeks abroad will inevitably not give you the same return as a year. Relationships and integration in the community require time. Languages are not mastered overnight. The bottom line is that you cannot compare short and long-term programs. Each program type has different goals and expectations. But if a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding.

Coincidentally, my internship project at CIEE revolved around its high school summer abroad program. Reading the feedback from students made me realize how powerful a 3-4 week experience impacted their outlook on the world. They kept blogs. Posted on social media. They shared their experiences and became global ambassadors by educating others of a world very different than their own.

When I told people that I was going to study abroad in China for a semester, I got a wide range of reactions. The people who had previously visited Asia thought it was a brilliant idea. They raved about the amazing food, business opportunities, and endless city nightlife. Those who thought I was “brave” or “a bit extreme” had never traveled here before. They told me stories they had heard from a friend of a friend who went there once back in the ’80s. They expressed how dirty and unsafe they believed the country to be. They brought up one or several of China’s well-known weaknesses.

“If a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding”

After being here a week, it is impossible for me to even tap into everything there is to know about this city. But there are a few things that stand out.

Each morning when I wake up, the city’s daily air quality score sits at the top of my app notifications. On my walk to campus, I pass a local hole-in-the-wall food market, whose smell and appearance remind me of the poverty-stricken markets I saw in Morocco. At every crosswalk, I am thankful for the pedestrian rights and protection laws that exist in the United States. When at a restaurant, I always order a beverage that is sealed.

However, there is so much good about this country that people do not know. Let me tell you about my Chinese language tutor, who bends over backwards to help me pronounce tones correctly. Or how approachable people on the street are when you need directions. And did I mention that Shanghai has one of the cleanest metros I’ve ever seen? Not to mention the incredible malls, history, architecture, restaurants, and rapidly emerging middle class.

Seven days isn’t everything, but it’s something.

What’s wrong with summer study programmes

“There are too many people conducting these programmes and there is no real organisation”

Peng Sang, President of the Beijing Overseas Student Service Association, calls for the Chinese government to do more to ensure summer study programmes serve students well.

The number of students using their holiday break to study abroad is on the increase. The number of students from China participating in summer or winter study programmes has increased from 230,000 in 2013 to 300,000 in 2014, an increase of 30-40%.

According to statistics sourced from Baidu Search Engine, the number of comments regarding holiday study student figures reached 2,120,000 within a one month period. This is an overall increase of 11%. The above mentioned figures show that the number of people wishing to undertake holiday study programs is enormous and will increase in the coming years.

The number of comments on Baidu regarding holiday study student figures reached 2,120,000 within a one month period

The current problem is there are too many people conducting these programmes and there is no real organisation. Secondly, the format of these programmes seems to be all the same, i.e. half day language study/half day outside activities.

There is limited variety in programme structure. These may not help students improve their language level or deeper understand the local culture. Thirdly, there is no regulation on pricing. More often than not the fees are too high, sometimes higher than regular holiday tours of similar content.

For a long period the Chinese government has paid little attention to the development of this industry. This has led to the current situation.

“For a long period the Chinese government has paid little attention to the development of this industry”

The Guide for Study Abroad Programs of Primary and Secondary School Students issued by the Ministry of Education in July 2014 shows that the Chinese Education Department is starting to pay attention to the holiday study industry. This is good news.

Having this new material is much better than having nothing at all. However, the Guide only really represents the government’s attitude, and only shows that the government is participating in the discussion. With no real enforcement and implementation of the content it is difficult to regulate the holiday study industry. In reality this approach will not solve the problem. The biggest problem concerning holiday study programmes is enforcing regulations upon those running these programmes.

BOSSA members are all overseas study service organisations which are jointly supervised by BOSSA and the Chinese government. Any guidance or suggestions made by the government will directly influence their operations. In reality, the Guide will have a limited influence on BOSSA members. As far as I know the requirements for BOSSA members to adhere to the provisions outlined in the Guide are minimal. Our members are already meeting these requirements and in some cases do more than is required of them.

Attracting Students from China

Since the turn of the century, the number of students studying abroad at a tertiary level has nearly doubled, with China being the largest contributor to the pool of foreign students.

In 2010 there were approximately 550,000 Chinese students pursuing higher education in a foreign country. More than 1 in 6 foreign students originate from China.

Not surprisingly, that’s created a huge push from educational institutions in the UK to attract Chinese students.

Tailor your offering

It’s tempting to take a one size fits all approach when it comes to attracting foreign students. What works in Australia should work in China. However the fact is what works in one country often won’t cut it in another.

The simplest example of this is the digital space. Google, the search behemoth, dominates many markets. It’s the leading player in Europe and North America, as well as in many emerging markets such as India. However with nearly 75% of the market, the largest search engine in China is in fact Baidu.

According to Paul Hoskins, chairman of Precedent, a marketing agency working in the higher education sector, you may also need to tailor your offering. “A simple example is to ensure that a required/featured module in any programme aimed at China is Business and/or Management,” he says. “These subjects are highly valued.”

League tables are vital

One of the key factors for Chinese students is league tables. At first glance this may seem pretty obvious and not all that helpful. Educational institutions already spend a lot of time looking at league tables and how to improve their standing.

However the important factor here is that Chinese students will not only look at the league tables for the university as a whole; they will also look at the league tables for specific subject areas.

Consequently, it’s vital that you focus on your strengths. Avoid the temptation to market all of your courses in China. This might seem self-defeating. The more courses you offer the more you’ll sell, right? But the simple fact is if you’re average or below average in a certain area, your marketing efforts in China are likely to be wasted. If you’re good at something, focus on that.

Factors out of your control

Other factors that are important to Chinese students include immigration issues, attitudes towards international students, standardised tests required by schools such as the SAT and how easy the visa application is.

These factors may be out of your control, but that does not mean they should be overlooked.

For example, if the visa application is difficult, any assistance you can provide will pay dividends down the line. This may be as simple as providing some additional support pages on your website specifically tailored to Chinese students.

Just because you can not control a factor, don’t think you can’t affect how it is perceived and handled.

Some of this may seem obvious, but the key factor is not to take a boilerplate approach to attracting Chinese students. Consider their needs, consider their concerns, and consider what it is you can offer that will make the 5000 mile trip worthwhile.

Hannah Sweeney works for 4Ps Marketing.