Diversify for better international student recruitment

UK and US offer best university course range but Australia seen as most welcoming towards international students says new report

A survey of almost 44,000 prospective international students recommends universities need to take a new approach to student marketing and recruitment to be able to compete globally.

Hobsons ‘International Student Marketing and Recruitment Manifesto’, argues that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to diversify and take a smarter, more personal and sustainable approach to international student recruitment.

The fourth annual study by Hobsons surveys students from 175 different countries who intend to study abroad. Hobsons partnered with 36 universities from around the world to survey their prospective student database. The survey sampled 43,919 prospective international students globally from 175 countries and 208 nationalities.

An international education is overwhelmingly perceived to offer higher quality education than studying at home. The US and UK are perceived, by international students, to offer the best range of courses, scoring the highest for availability of courses, with 61.7% saying the UK was ‘excellent’ compared to their home country and 61.9% saying the same for the US.

The UK and US are virtually tied on perceptions that course fees are unaffordable. 18.3% of prospective students rate US as ‘very poor’ in terms of affordability of course fees, while 18.6% rate the UK as ‘very poor’.

The results from the study also show that international students are increasingly concerned by a positive student experience that can largely be determined by the attitude of their destination country towards them.

Australia is perceived to have the best attitude towards international students with 48% of respondents saying that Australia was excellent compared to their home country. Similarly, Australia is perceived to have the best availability of scholarships with 35% of participants saying that it was ‘excellent’, which further illustrates their willingness to be perceived as welcoming to students from abroad.

Digital channels and student profiling

To attract international students more successfully, institutions need to become more aligned digitally.

The report found that 72% of prospective students using social media at some stage when researching universities, and therefore argues that it is crucial for HEI’s to include digital innovation within their student recruitment strategy.

With competition for international students increasing, the report finds that the old ‘analogue’ approach to international recruitment is no longer fit for purpose. Traditional modes of international student recruitment don’t scale well into new markets and expect prospective students to conform to a narrowly-defined enquiry process. The Manifesto advocates a new approach, which involves profiling of prospective students to understand their goals, motivations and decision-making, along with using student intelligence and integrated technologies to attract the right students.

Jeremy Cooper, Managing Director of Hobsons EMEA, said: “These findings show us that universities must become more understanding and responsive to what students want from their investment in higher education. Only a truly competitive international recruitment strategy can identify the unique and specific demands that each prospective student has and address these by matching them to the value that the university can offer.”

To download the full report visit https://internationalstudentsurvey.com/

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