As consumers, we’re often introduced to new and improved ways of making payments. From PayPal to ApplePay, we have benefitted from various fintech innovations in the payments industry. They create more ways to pay, offer more choice and ultimately lead to a better purchasing experience.
However, making best use of these digital innovations has been challenging for the higher education sector – more specifically, when it comes to students paying tuition fees internationally. Across the world there are countless payment possibilities – from WeChat Pay in China, to SOFORT in Germany. For universities accepting payments from different markets, it can be hard to know which of these options to offer. Invariably this has meant that universities may not be offering the payment methods that students really want to use or may be providing too many options, which could create a confusing process for students and universities alike.
In fact, for half of UK institutions, students being unable to use the required payment method in their home country was one of their biggest challenges when accepting payments, according to a recent survey commissioned by Western Union, and this is having a negative impact on student experience. Our focus groups with students revealed that many were put off the payment process, often because they simply couldn’t use the university’s preferred payment method in their region.
Western Union has recently upgraded our WU® GlobalPay for Students product to address some of these pain points for students. Launched in 2017, the enhanced platform brings together multiple payment methods – including online payment options, e-wallet payments and credit card payments. This means academic institutions can offer international students the option to make payments using their preferred method, while also making the reconciliation and processing of payments much simpler for the university’s finance teams.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because the face of payments continues to develop, so too will the GlobalPay for Students platform. There are increasing opportunities for universities in emerging markets such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil, and we would encourage academic institutions to take advantage of these growing international student populations by providing them with a broader range of payments options.
According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), China is the top country of origin for overseas students, with 712,157 tertiary-level students studying abroad. For this reason, Western Union is preparing to grow its partnership with Chinese payments company Geoswift to add WeChat – a messaging and payments service that accounts for 35% of the time that Chinese people spend on their phones – to our payment options. As the number of Chinese students studying overseas continues to rise, universities now have an opportunity to capitalise by offering international payment options which better reflect the needs of these students.
As well as being able to provide their students with a better service, there is also a tangible business benefit for universities in using innovative payment platforms like GlobalPay for Students. The platform is designed to help universities and colleges around the world simplify the reconciliation, refunding and tracking of incoming international payments, which can be a complex and time-consuming process. So complex, in fact, that in the UK alone up to 67 working days may be lost annually per institution to matching, processing and reconciling these payments, according to our recent survey with universities’ finance and admissions teams.
Western Union believes that a product that makes it easier for universities to process and reconcile payments is an essential tool in making our institutions more efficient and internationally competitive, as well as improving the payments experience for students. Fintech offers a wealth of potential for academic institutions – both in terms of attracting students and running a more profitable business. We would therefore encourage universities to invest in innovative technologies to improve the international tuition payment process for all involved.
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The author on behalf of Western Union has based the opinions expressed herein on information generally available to the public and makes no warranty concerning the accuracy of this information and specifically disclaims any liability whatsoever for any loss arising from trading decisions based on the opinions expressed and information contained herein. Such information and opinions are for general information only are not intended to present advice with respect to matters reviewed and commented upon.
Western Union Business Solutions is a business unit of the Western Union Company and provides services in the UK through Western Union’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Western Union International Bank GmbH, UK Branch (WUIB). WUIB (Branch Address: 12 Appold Street, London, EC2A 2AW) is a branch of Western Union International Bank GmbH (registered in Austria, company number FN256184t, VAT Number ATU61347377, with its registered office at Schubertring 11, 1010 Vienna, Austria), which is licensed by the Austria Financial Market Authority (Österreichische Finanzmarktaufsicht). WUIB is subject to limited regulation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of WUIB’s regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are available from WUIB on request