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Disruptive tech players consider future of international recruitment

Edtech solutions catering to “geography agnostic” students across the world are preparing for a disrupted student recruitment market beyond the coronavirus pandemic, where educators will use big data to determine strategies and recruitment events will feature digital elements to ensure maximum efficiency and impact.

"I definitely see universities reducing their in-country events"

These were notions put forward by experts and entrepreneurs in the student recruitment tech space at The PIE’s recent TNE and Tech event, held virtually in March.

While the pandemic has resulted in virtual options becoming “really the only solution for universities to broadcast and connect with their audiences around the world”, co-founder of China-based platform Udentity Chi-Linh Jeremy Nguyen-Phuong suggested digital recruitment will continue far beyond the pandemic.

“If we were to build more forms of engagement, other services, helping to guide [universities] through, how to make more relatable content for instance, it can be useful beyond the pandemic when the borders open, to be able to use data, analytics to build better engagement going forward.”

On the point of data, senior director at Education Industry Solutions International – Salesforce, Jane Armstrong, said digital is an imperative not only in education delivery, but also in recruitment.

“Being able to access data from multiple different systems… is going to be really critical in the future,” she said, adding one Salesforce survey found that 65% of staff currently reported a lack of data.

“A lot of universities have always valued the experience to be able to present and engage directly”

“Universities really need to have this data to make strategic decisions,” she explained.

Chief executive officer and co-founder of UAE-based Lock&Stock Craig Fernandes emphasised the oft-noted potential of technology tools to engage thousands of students across the world, but offered an impressive example.

The app – designed to encourage wellbeing and digital detox by rewarding students for not using their phones with deals and promotions – engages a third of the UAE’s 200,000 students. In 2020, 4% of the country’s private enrolments (1,000 students) were made through the platform, and will look for similar success as its expands internationally.

Similarly, Cialfo’s CEO and co-founder Rohan Pasari noted impressive growth since March 2020, where it has brought 1,000 universities on to its platform used by college counsellors at international schools. Pasari also shared growth target plans for the year ahead.

Students across different regions often have the same questions about studying overseas, Fernandes at Lock & Stock added. The “geography agnostic” international student cohort leans in favour of technological tools, he indicated.

“I definitely see universities reducing their in-country events and utilising [these tools] or doing it themselves, I definitely see the industry going that way,” he said.

“I think a lot of universities have always valued the experience to be able to present and engage directly to get that instant feedback,” said Udentity’s Nguyen-Phuong.

“But I think going forward and when the world does open up, it needs a blend of both the online and offline experience to complement each other. Online maybe being a way to gage ahead of time where could be strategic places for our institution to consider travel in the future,” he said.

“You need to use the online events and engagement, and use the data to carry on your decisions going forward… When it comes to in-person events it will also need to be a little bit different, where instead of the generic information and that generic presentation you could have pre-events done online and then use the in-person experience to really hone in on a specific topic.”

“Generally speaking, I think the whole recruitment is going… to be more creative. Even the fairs and the events, I can see a lot of tech can play a very nice job in [student recruitment] right now,” agreed Meti Basiri, co-founder and CMO at ApplyBoard.

Basiri also predicted a wealth of disruptive companies emerging in 2022 with ideas created during the pandemic.

“Post-pandemic, a lot of things will change and I think schools can take advantage of both [forms of recruitment].”

Agencies will still play a role looking ahead, speakers agreed.

“Traditionally I think education agents, especially in China, are pretty much the primary resource for parents but less so for the students,” ventured Nguyen-Phuong.

“One thing that we have seen through this pandemic, and possibly beyond, is that some agents did take an impact in terms of not being able to provide content or suggestions. But what these agents really know is the psychology of the parents,” he said.

“I don’t think recruitment agents are going to go away. They are changing, I think they will do different things down the line,” added Basiri.

“Students are getting smarter everyday too”

“A lot of the traditional recruitment agencies are built by international students, they were the alumni of schools, they went back home and they started and those networks have just expanded massively in the past few years.

Having said that, students are getting smarter everyday too. I would say direct channels and direct students will be paths to grow, but at the same time that would require huge investment by many institutions so they can handle that,” he noted.

Basiri also predicted that competition is going to be “huge” between schools. ”

The UK is coming very strong, the US is going to be one of the strongest markets in the next few years. I think the competition between English speaking countries is going to be interesting to watch in the next few years.”

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