Today, we are at an interesting time in international higher education. Globalization has created new opportunities and challenges for universities. Throughout this blog series, beginning with reviewing trends, we have discussed strategies for universities to recruit international students through various means of student, program, and institutional mobility. Student mobility would encapsulate study abroad or student exchanges; program mobility includes offering online programs, dual or joint degree programs, and twinning arrangements; and institutional mobility is defined by a home campus opening a study center or international branch campus. Regardless of the type of mobility universities utilize as part of their internationalization plans, recruiting students is essential for the success of these academic programs.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides higher education leaders an array of internationalization options available to either attract foreign students or to take their academic programs to students across the globe. Building brand recognition, marketing these academic programs to foreign students, and maintaining relationships with students, parents, principals, and partners overseas becomes critical for longer-term sustainability of these programs.
As university leaders plan their recruiting efforts and how they will utilize their scarce marketing and recruiting resources to focus on particular countries or regions, they must also take into account local, regional, and national political, economic, and financial factors. Countries that have traditionally sent students abroad–in hopes that they return to use their education to benefit their society and economy–may now be investing in capacity building within their higher education sector, giving students options at home to earn a postsecondary degree. Two countries building or importing capacity include China, which is rapidly expanding its higher education sector by building new universities, and South Korea, which is importing highly ranked US and European universities to its Incheon Global Campus.
Due to numerous factors regarding international student recruiting, universities seeking international students operate in an internationally competitive environment. Today, the tuition international students pay plays a significant role in US universities’ operating budgets. It’s no secret that a globally known brand will help to attract students. But for universities with regionally known brands, or brands that are lesser known in general, there are a variety of solutions to scale the impact of your marketing efforts to ensure that you are realizing a high return on investment.
Brand building starts on the ground, building relationships with various stakeholders within a country or region. Establishing partnerships with ministries of education, local education authorities, companies, non-profit organizations, schools, and principals will help create brand recognition within sought-after countries to recruit students from and to establish relationships with prospective students and parents. These relationships can be expensive, time-intensive, and complex to establish. Hence, managing the engagement with these organizations and individuals becomes critical for the success of academic programs that rely on international students. The same can be said for global executive education programs, such as Columbia Business School, which uses Sales Cloud to track student information and help build relationships with executives and the companies that sponsor their continuing education.
Technology Makes a Difference to Support Recruiters
Often times I work with higher education customers at Salesforce.org who have attempted to build their global marketing strategy using only email. Email campaigns, while an important part of a marketing strategy, will only go so far to recruit today’s prospective students. Students communicate with family and friends across many different communication channels such as social networks, SMS/MMS/text, within the apps they download, and email. Recruiting students on just one of these channels is not likely to catch their attention. With so many communications options available today, universities can utilize technology that communicates with students across all of these channels. If the prospective student is unresponsive on one channel, then we communicate across another channel. For instance, the University of Oxford Saïd Business School uses Marketing Cloud to communicate with prospects globally based on the prospect’s preferences. At Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, the conversion ratio of admission applicants to enrollees increased 7 percent after implementing Marketing Cloud.
Let me provide an example of how this works. A university is starting a new online business analytics program taught in Spanish, and the target markets are in Latin America. A communication plan can be built with lists of prospective students who may meet the academic requirements of this program. The communication to these prospective students could begin with a tailored email. If after a couple of days, a segment of the students who received the email do not respond, you could then place advertisements in these students’ social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. If they are still unresponsive to these outreach efforts, text messages could then be sent to them, and if they are still unresponsive, someone on the recruiting staff could call them. If anywhere within this communication plan the student responds positively, then we have accomplished our goal. Automating the communication and outreach plan truly scales the impact of a university’s international recruiting team to get a targeted message out to prospective students on the channels they use.
Moving Beyond Spreadsheets
Marketing and outreach to prospective students is important, and so is managing the engagement and interactions with the organizations and individuals recruiters encounter while at home and in-country. Often, recruiters do not have the modern tools they need to be productive. Some customers I meet are managing these relationships with spreadsheets on a shared drive. After traveling long distances to meet with prospective students during the day, recruiters then have to go back to their hotel rooms to spend hours updating these spreadsheets so that their colleagues on campus know the status of the recruiting efforts during these trips. This process becomes problematic for various reasons, as it is difficult to update and maintain these spreadsheets, and it is difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of these recruiting efforts as metrics have to be calculated through manual processes.
There are alternatives to the scenario I just described. Customers I meet with describe moving off spreadsheets and onto a centralized platform as an ideal evolution from spreadsheets. But so much more can be done to help recruiters beyond establishing a centralized database. Constituent relationship management solutions like Salesforce.org Education Cloud not only create such a centralized platform, but they also provide recruiters with the ability to document their engagement with their prospective students, report on their activities, inform the recruiting staff of the status of an applicant, and align resources at the right time to support students applying and accepting offers of admission. In addition to having the latest information on a recruit and all of the engagement activities that the recruiting staff has had, leadership within the university can have real-time reporting (such as Einstein Analytics) to understand the ROI of their international recruiting efforts. It is even possible, given a set of student characteristics, to predict their likelihood to enroll if given an offer of admissions. (For more on predictions, see the Einstein Prediction Builder Trailhead Trail.)
Mobility is also key for recruiters, especially when they are thousands of miles from home and need access to the latest information on a prospective student or partnership with a local organization. Having a mobile version of the constituent relationship management system can be extremely beneficial for recruiters where they have the latest information at their fingertips. When they meet with a prospective student they can immediately update their team on campus with the details of their meeting. Providing your recruiters with mobile solutions like Salesforce Inbox to make them more productive while on recruiting trips and engaging with their constituents can provide your university with a competitive advantage in a highly competitive market.
There are myriad technology solutions to enhance your international student recruiting efforts and to help your institution communicate with prospective students.
Get the details on how leading higher education institutions are advancing their international recruiting in this e-book.
About the Author
Brad Beecher, Ed.D, is an International Higher Education Researcher & Lead Solution Engineer at Salesforce.org. He brings 20 years of experience in solutions engineering helping higher education institutions solve problems with technology. He has extensively researched globalization, the internationalization of higher education, international branch campuses, and global education hubs. He has researched, worked with, and visited international branch campuses located in global education hubs in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea.