Tag: student recruitment

Higher education needs international student engagement more than ever – and the solution is clear

“Set up right, chatbots in higher education can handle over 80% of all queries”

International student engagement is crucial to higher education, from the first touch to the last. Each interaction is vital – from engaging with prospective students to support admission targets, to connecting with current students to ensure they feel supported and don’t add to the worryingly-high dropout rates.

However, many departments are struggling to connect with international students, and it’s having a clear and damaging effect. In the 2020-21 academic year, the number of international students at US colleges fell by 15%, according to the Institute of International Education and the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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The UK can do better than “the land of fish and chips”

“Far from portraying the UK as a “lifestyle” destination, we should promote our world-leading graduate outcomes”

A radio advert carried by a number of leading Malaysian radio stations for the previous British Council Education Exhibition – promoted the UK as “the land of fish and chips” with universities that “provide scholarships & discounts.”

Is this really how we want to be portraying UK higher education, in any market especially what is a mature and established market, the third largest sender of full-time international students to the UK?

Far from portraying the UK as a “lifestyle” destination and cutting the cost of our world-leading degree programmes, we should change direction and promote our world-leading graduate outcomes.

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Using your university website as a recruitment tool

“A smooth mobile-responsive website acts as a trust signal for students, encouraging them to find out more about your institution”

Recent research from UniQuest revealed that 91% of international offer holders at partner institutions were “stealth applicants”, meaning they made no contact with the institution before applying. What’s more, over half of the students only used the university website when deciding on where to study.

Prospective students often use multiple sources of information and more than one device, which can make tracking their journey to application incredibly difficult. Universities must increasingly invest in sophisticated multi-channel tracking and attribution modelling, in order to gain insightful data on students and leverage the information sources that influence applications.

However, the research also highlights the importance of providing students with informative and engaging content across your website, as well as an excellent user experience. Some universities are already taking advantage of this, with the University of Sussex and Keele University both launching new websites for their respective International Study Centres.

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Will Canada have quadrupled its international student numbers in eight years?

“It is conceivable that Canada could have a million international students by the end of 2022”

In early 2014 the Canadian Federal Government announced its intentions to grow study permit holders in Canada from 265,000 to 450,000 and gave itself eight years. In 2017 that target was surpassed, a full five years early.

The first time I heard the goal was at a Federal Government supported student recruitment fair in Abuja, Nigeria, in late January 2014. A good number of Canadian school recruiters (myself included) were busy laying out marketing materials and preparing for the prospective students lined up outside the event. The student fair in Abuja was one stop of many throughout Africa.

Before things opened to the public, the Canadian Ambassador to Nigeria and our then-International Trade Minister (Ed Fast) took to the podium to talk new policies and give encouragement to the audience. The big takeaway? Canada’s government had identified international student growth as a major “stimulant” to the domestic economy.  And the country would – in Fast’s estimation – get this injection by doubling the outcomes of our collective efforts (which were already round-the-clock). Murmurs of commentary and raised eyebrows went up. Clearly, not everyone was aligned on the scope and spirit of the proposition.

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Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education

“UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume”

The following is an extract from the British Council’s Education in East Asia – By the Numbers report entitled ‘Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education’. British Council’s Services for International Education Marketing (SIEM) team helps UK institutions refine their internationalisation strategies to succeed in East Asia and around the globe. The full report is available to registered members of the British Council website here.

A recent report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on global demand for English higher education has generated a great deal of attention among education practitioners and media outlets in the UK. Most coverage focused rightfully on the first net drop in international enrolment in English higher education in 29 years, as well as discussion of the various causes of this decline. With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world “how to ruin a global brand.”

“With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world ‘how to ruin a global brand'”

Given the particularly precipitous decline in new enrolments from south Asia – by upwards of 50 per cent in two years – some commenters have latched onto any good news that they can find, especially the continued rise in the number of students from China, as a bright spot for the UK sector[1]. One even proclaimed UK higher education to be “an industry winning an important share of the huge and growing Chinese market.”

But this way of thinking about China may already be outdated, as growth in China’s outbound student market has rapidly slowed. In fact, by focusing on the modest rise in overall enrolments from China, commentators overlook the surprising halt in growth at undergraduate levels in the UK in 2012/13. With students from China making up not only the largest sending market to the UK, but also the fastest growing one in recent years, this slowdown in Chinese enrolments would appear to foreshadow crisis for the UK higher education sector.

Somewhat strangely, however, UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume. What’s more, the UK education sector is better prepared to weather a fallow period from China than any other major English speaking destination country.

Slowing dragon

There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK. China enrolled 32,000 more students in UK higher education in 2012/13 than it did only five years prior, accounting for fully 60 per cent of growth in total new enrolments of international students over this time period. Today, more than one in five international students comes from China, up from one in eight as recently as 2007/08.

“There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK”

What’s more, China’s outbound student market appears at first glance to be in fine health.  New enrolments in UK higher education increased by more than six per cent in 2012/13 from the year before, even as international enrolments from other countries declined[2].

The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study
The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study

Appearances can be deceiving though.  The seemingly healthy bump in first-year enrolments from China in UK higher education in 2012/13 masked the slowest rate of expansion since 2007/08. Moreover, all of this growth was concentrated in postgraduate courses, with new enrolments at both undergraduate levels registering net declines. In particular, new enrolments in first-degree courses came to a halt in 2012/13 after averaging 18 per cent annual growth over the period from 2007 to 2012.

In other words, if China was the engine of growth for the UK sector from 2007/08 until 2011/12, it downshifted quite dramatically in 2012/13. And if current trends in undergraduate enrolments in the UK are a harbinger of things to come, total new enrolments could stall by as early as 2014/15, weighed down by a shrinking youth population and slowing economic growth. This will only put further pressure on UK institutions to seek new sources of international students.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the UK.

The tipping point

For one thing, the UK education sector is still far less dependent on Chinese enrolments than other major English language speaking countries, particularly Australia, where nearly two fifths of all international students in higher education come from China. Even when excluding EU enrolments from the international student population, the UK is less dependent on China for international enrolments than Australia, Canada or the US, meaning that the UK sector will feel the effects of a slowdown in new Chinese enrolments less than other education markets might.

While UK higher education is less reliant on China’s student market overall, some UK institutions have grown worryingly dependent on China for international enrolments in recent years. To wit, in 2002/03, there were 11 UK institutions at which first-year students from China comprised more than 30 per cent of all new international enrolments; by 2012/13, fully 30 institutions fit this profile, and two universities enrolled more Chinese students than all other international students combined… [Continue reading]

[1]While HEFCE’s report focused solely on English higher education institutions, the picture is largely the same for the entire UK sector.  

[2]All statistics for UK higher education institutions come from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The UK does not have a God-given right in the international student recruitment market

“Our bellicose rhetoric and criticism of UK immigration policy is simply picked up and repeated in the press overseas as criticism of the UK and of our universities”

Vincenzo Raimo, director of the international office at The University of Nottingham, writes about how poor lobbying tactics can damage the UK’s reputation abroad, and the complex factors impacting on Indian students’ decision to study in the UK.

Thank goodness the University of East Anglia’s Edward Acton, who said that Home Office rhetoric on immigration was having “a horrible, negative effect” on international student recruitment, is on his way out. But how do we stop other Vice-Chancellors going on about visas as if they’re the only reason numbers are down from India?
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.