In a hyper-competitive market attracting international students is vital--but it’s not always easy. In a bid to help we’ve pulled together some key strategies for international enrolment growth, alongside some working examples from universities who are acing it today.
Some countries around the world are attracting more international students than ever before.Take Canada, for example. In 2014 the government launched its Comprehensive International Education Strategy with the aim of attracting 450,000 international students and researchers to the country’s institutions by 2022.
Impressively, it managed to host 495,000 international students in 2017, exceeding its target five years early.
South Korea has also witnessed record growth in international student recruitment in recent years, and Sweden is developing a HE Internationalisation Strategy with the aim of making the country “one of the most attractive, international knowledge nations with world leading quality of education and research”.
Some countries, however, are facing challenges when it comes to attracting international students. International undergrad and postgrad enrolment in US universities fell by 6 percent (14,230 students) in 2017-18, according to a data published on the Institute for International Education’s website, resulting in a loss of $355 million.
There are other examples too. For instance, the number of EU students enrolling on courses at the UK’s 24 Russell Group universities (institutions known for their research excellence) is in decline; a sign that the build up to Brexit is having a negative impact.
Of course, government initiatives and a country’s political and economic climate can have a significant impact on international student growth, but what can individual universities do to market themselves to international students.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective strategies being employed today.
1. Promote the location
Informing prospective international students about what a university’s location has to offer is just as important as promoting the merits of the institution itself.
Some candidates might never have visited the city before, and might not have the opportunity to before enrolment, so information is a must--local culture and customs, things to do, the price of accommodation--the list goes on. Identify and dispel any misconceptions people might have but be honest.
University of Kent’s page dedicated to the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) gives visitors an insight into the culture and history of the capital, alongside practical information like the cost of living.
2. Highlight programme features
International students have a plethora of options to choose from nowadays, particularly now that online modules and low-cost alternatives are available.This furthers the need for universities to pinpoint their value proposition in order to articulate what makes them the best option for their target student segment (after all, you can’t be everything to everyone).
Take New York University, for example. Its NYU Stern School of Business is a renowned business school with a glowing reputation, but what makes it truly unique is its focus on social impact. The Stern “Social Impact Curriculum” enables students to examine their approach to professional ethics and social responsibility.
3. Identify a need
It sounds obvious but to compete, universities’ curricular needs to be relevant, which means it should evolve to match the needs of industry.
For instance, Georgetown University leverages market research, studies and labour market trends to identify the competencies in demand, alongside the views of employer and alumni to optimise their curriculum for local and global labor markets.
4. Provide flexible options
“Flexibility” is a buzzword used across many different sectors today in relation to people’s need for agile solutions that fit around their busy lives. Providing access to online study options is one way to embrace flexibility and boost international enrolment.
Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science is a great example of how implementing an online course can work. Since its launch in 2013, the programme has grown exponentially. Its Spring 2018 enrolment data shows that, out of 6,365 students, 29.8% were international and 99 countries were represented.
5. Enhance digital reach
Brand awareness should be another key area of focus for any institution looking to attract more international students. This means strategic digital outreach to target markets in different regions and the creation of digital campaigns designed to attract international students.
Consider the following:
- Virtual tours
- Video content
- Translated text
- Social media campaigns
In this video some of University of Toronto’s international students talk about life on campus, academic opportunities and why they chose to study at the university.
6. Partner with employees
One of the reasons students choose to study abroad is because they believe that the experience will open up better career opportunities afterwards, which is why internship and work-study programmes are so appealing.
The Japanese government aims to increase the employment rate of international graduates to 50 percent by 2020. As such, Japan’s universities are helping foreign students to secure part-time jobs that will help them fund their studies and improve their prospects of getting a full-time job in the country upon graduation.
For more information and advice about how to attract international students, particularly through marketing and social media campaigns, check out related articles on our blog.
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