Rocky Chi, Strategy and Insight Manager, Emerging Communications
The number of Chinese in their mid- to late-twenties seeking postgraduate courses is increasingly rapidly. What is more, targeting them is relatively easy, because the best way to engage is through LinkedIn, and using the English language.
The cause of the migration towards postgraduate learning is twofold. Managerial life in China has reached such a level of pressure that it is now termed ‘night to night six’ – working from darkness in the morning to darkness at night, six days a week. As a way of avoiding intense work pressure – while maintaining a successful career – an additional qualification is frequently seen as the route to obtaining a managerial job overseas with a less intense working week.
At the same time, an increasing number of those in the their late 20s find that promotion is stalled by a bottleneck of peers with similar qualifications and work experience.
Overseas postgraduate degrees are being pursued in greater numbers as springboards to the next level on the career ladder. This presents universities with great opportunities to attract an increasingly large number of cash-rich Chinese students in their twenties seeking postgraduate studies, particularly in business-related studies.
The UK is well-positioned to serve this market. The increasingly stringent Graduate Record Examination qualification required to study in the United States is a growing deterrent and, although the rhetoric from Washington about limiting or banning students from China is yet to affect intake into the US, there is a strong possibility it may have an impact.
It is a market that is cash-rich, relatively easy to engage with, and represents an open goal for many UK universities.
Targeting the Chinese postgraduate market is made easier through the use of LinkedIn. For young white collar professionals in China, LinkedIn is an intrinsic feature of life, with many logging in first thing in the morning to obtain news and information on job opportunities, networking events, business courses, work and careers advice, and anything else that might improve job CV. It is compulsive viewing for many, and carries a high degree of credibility.
What is more, the language that predominates among the mostly bilingual users is English, and this includes advertising. Seventy per cent actually select to use the English interface rather than the Mandarin, and most of these work in business and finance.
Using English adds perceived value to messages. However, there is an important caveat to using English when marketing in China: it is essential not to be drawn into thinking the tone of message, or calls to action, should be what is familiar in the UK. Whether advertising or posting, there is a need to localise content. Chinese audiences are becoming increasingly angered by UK marketers from all sectors that do not learn about their needs, or the style of communication they expect.
Of course, there is a temptation to take a DIY approach when the language is in English. Nevertheless, if it is necessary to have professional strategists and content managers for Facebook and Twitter in the West, it is doubly so in the case of China. But this is not just about copywriting. Ideally, planning should start by understanding the needs of the market and tailoring courses accordingly.
Chinese audiences are becoming increasingly angered by UK marketers from all sectors that do not learn about their needs, or the style of communication they expect.
The ideal curriculum provides an MBA, or other job-related qualification, in as short a time as possible. Being able to study fully or partly online is an advantage, as are summer schools, although longer time frames are appropriate.
As well as learning, other criteria are considered very important. The opportunity to undertake appropriate work placements should not be underestimated in importance on Chinese CVs. Equally, networking opportunities are considered a vital part of career building and, the more universities can do to build this benefit into courses, the better they look to the postgraduate audience.
A good example of short course provision with networking opportunities are some of those provided by Hult International Business School. It offers a range of business studies, with many including networking and international business culture learning.
With the pressure on young business professionals in China showing every sign of becoming increasingly intense, the number seeking postgraduate courses will continue to rise. It is a market that is cash-rich, relatively easy to engage with, and represents an open goal for many UK universities.