300 professionals working in the industry responded to the call, 90% of which were based in the US. The study asked for respondents views on a personal-professional level, rather than an institutional level.
The survey threw up many interesting revelations, from the reasons institutions recruit internationally (38% said “Generate revenue”), to the issues professionals see as important to the sector in the next year.
“Politics is just the very public tip of a much larger iceberg”
But perhaps most shocking was the reported levels of institutional spending on international recruitment travel, and the level of planning at a departmental or institutional level.
32% of respondents said their institution spent less than $10k annually on ‘recruitment travel’. Furthermore, 38% told the survey their institution had “no plan” for international enrolment management, and 11% said the institution was not working on one.
When presenting this fact, David Di Maria, associate vice provost for international education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, asked if this is the case, “are they really trying to recruit internationally?”.
But the recruitment outlook is negative for many, the report revealed, with 67% of respondents “uncertain” to some extent that their institution would hit the next recruitment target.
The reasons for this doubt are varied, but a large percentage blamed “political climate”. Among those who declared they were “very uncertain” of hitting targets, 43% blamed the world-wide political theatre.
It may be tempting to jump to the conclusion that the respondents were referring to the presidency of Donald Trump and his tempestuous policy decisions, but Di Maria warned against such thought. Instead, he pointed out the strong US dollar would be a detraction for some international students, and campus safety fears enhanced by recent mass shootings were also having an impact.
“Are they really trying to recruit internationally?”
However, when the question was widened to “Thinking within the broader context of the field of international enrolment management, what are your top three concerns?” 52% of all respondents cited political climate as their top concern. A further 31% said it was their second most pressing concern, with 24% returning politics as the third most concerning global factor to the recruitment landscape.
Again, Di Maria had a word of warning for those who may assume that, with a largely North American pool, the survey results would shed a light on feelings about current US politics.
However, he pointed to global trends such as Brexit and other worldwide political movements. But a crucial difference which Di Maria also noted was the prevalence of local politics around the world also having an effect on the North American sector.
But politics is just the “very public tip of a much larger iceberg,” Di Maria stated. Institutional issues, such as cost and university leadership were also highlighted as causes for concern, and should be taken equally seriously Di Maria warned.
Despite dour notes among the results, the presentation ended on a bright note, with Di Maria and fellow presenters George Kacenga, of the University of Colorado, Denver and Jack Sullivan, director of programs at the University of Pennsylvania, noting that with coherent strategy, HEIs can secure better investment.
With that, which is not impossible, the industry and the institutions will see growth they concluded.