The emergence of a large, globally mobile body of students willing to cross national boundaries in search of the best education has profoundly affected the higher education market in every country according to a new report from international student recruitment firm Hobsons Solutions. Some twenty years ago there were only four countries in which more than half of the student-age population attended university. Currently students are actively seeking a university education in 54 countries including Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and the United States.
International students make a vital contribution to the culture, vitality and sustainability of universities and societies around the world. The report points out that international higher education has become a crucial export income generator for some of the world’s largest economies, generating more income than tourism for Australia or coal for Canada. And yet success is not guaranteed to continue as the institutions are facing many disruptions due to rapid technological development, evolving models of learning, increased competition with foreign schools, and budget pressure.
In general, education institutions are advised to utilise data and insight as the foundation of a best-practice student recruitment and to :
• diversifiy away from a ‘key market’ recruitment strategy to a truly global student recruitment strategy
• invest in collecting deep data on customers — student intelligence — using it to understand what motivates them and how to best serve them
• become truly customer-centric and engage with prospective students on their terms, using the channels, content and communications they are most comfortable and familiar with
• use digital and social channels to reach new audiences and attract the right students, utilise student intelligence to identify and attract prospects who fit the ideal profile
• become more agile and responsive to student needs and explore markets that were previously not accessible through traditional recruitment strategies
• combine student stories, insights and experiences gleaned through personal interactions with students to provide actionable insight to support marketing practices
• integrate technologies, bring digital asset and platform management, customer relationship management, application processing systems and performance reporting together
Understand student worries
The most pressing concern for prospective international students is cost, with 80% prospects citing cost of course fees as a concern when considering the total cost of studying overseas.
- 81% of prospects agree that university study is the best way to prepare for their careers
- 25% of them say they would consider not attending university if there was a better way of getting a qualification
Although the cost of higher education in many seasoned universities around the world is considered expensive, international students make an educated guess that the heavy financial costs of attaining an international qualification will generate a return on investment that makes the cost worthwhile. Universities need to continue to develop curriculum to meet the demands of future employers, and resist the desire to get too creative with the names of their degrees, says the report.