International study is no longer the reserve of the privileged few: every year more and more students are choosing courses abroad. In 2016, over 300,000 students from the US chose university courses abroad, and around one million people from other countries chose the US as their place of study.
Photo by Vasily Koloda
International student recruitment today
Currently, the US leads the way when it comes to international study, followed by the UK and China, but recently countries such as Australia have been catching up quickly. Figures from the Australian Department of Education reveal a 12 per cent increase in their number of international students.
The number of people opting for overseas study is set to rise, and research shows that by 2022 there will be around seven million students doing so. In light of this upward trend, what can universities do to attract the attention of international candidates?
The answer certainly isn't simple, but it's a good idea to start by planning to meet students where they spend a large amount of their time - online.
We take a look at some examples of what universities are doing to attract and convert international candidates today.
University of Leeds - Video Content
YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index video traffic will account for 80 per cent of all consumer internet traffic by 2019. It's easy to understand why video is proving so popular. The medium is accessible, digestible and stimulates the senses. It's also well-suited to the mobile experience which is important because over 75 per cent of video is viewed on mobile.
This video from University of Leeds demonstrates just how effectively video can be as a tool for international student recruitment, and it received over 12,000 views in short time. The best marketing campaigns tell stories, and this video's narrative engages the viewer and enables them to gain a real insight into the life of an international student.
As well as academic and university life, the university also uses the video to talk about their international ambassadors programme which aims to unite home and international students.
University of New South Wales - Multilingual Marketing
If you create great content and post it on all the main social channels, it's bound to get seen by some international prospects. But the 'main channels' aren't the same everywhere. To attract international students, you need to understand the channels they are using and adjust your content accordingly.
Take University of New South Wales, for example. They have a large presence on Chinese social sites like Sina Weibo, to reach Chinese students who are considering studying in Australia.
It's also a good idea to keep in mind that international students who aren't native speakers might not engage as well with content that is peppered with idioms and colloquialisms, so keep language simple, direct and digestible.
University of Copenhagen - Virtual Tours
Studying abroad can feel like a huge risk, especially if you're unfamiliar with the country and institution itself. Virtual tours are a fantastic idea, not least of all because they enable international candidates to get a feel for the institution if they are unable to visit it in person.
University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences' virtual tour is a great example of how content of this kind can be multifaceted and used in conjunction with other types of content.
Visitors to the website can navigate their way around various parts of the building. What makes it different though is that the user can click on different features as they go to open up relevant or interesting information pertaining to specific parts of the faculty.
For example, when you navigate to the lab you're given the option to click through to videos on the department's research into diabetes, and at the information desk you can open a map and a list of opening hours. There's even the option to watch videos on student life and what it's like to study there.
University College Cork - International Fairs
Writing for the Times Higher Education, Chris Parr explains how attending an international student recruitment fair can be a hugely influential thing for both the university and candidate. It is often the first and possibly only opportunity the candidate has to establish personal connections and ask questions in a face-to-face setting.
Parr talks about his experience at the Student World Fair that took place in London and Manchester this year.
"While the university experts on hand at stands are, of course, equipped with information about the different degrees available and how much you can expect to pay, speaking to representatives (and often alumni) face-to-face can give potential students the chance to ask questions that cannot be answered by a website or prospectus."
Speaking with Parr, Undergraduate Admissions Adviser, Sandra O'Herlihy of University College Cork discusses how rising fees in other countries has led to an increase in enquiries from international students.
"We have a strategy to move more into the EU market, and coming to this type of fair is part of that. The people coming to talk to us here are showing an interest in a whole range of subjects. Whereas previously we had a lot of people asking about our medicine courses, this year we are getting enquiries across a lot of disciplines.
Coming here is definitely part of how students are finding out about what the different countries are like. I have had people here who are keen to move to Ireland even though they have never been there before."
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