University Access Centres will be a “market-facing brand” and the centres will provide a hub for INTO staff, in-country personnel for globally operating education institutions and also counsellors and education agencies.
Recruiter agency partners of INTO will be invited to use the UACs and engage with prospective students and parents. More widely, universities will be invited to hire in-country reps via INTO to work out of a UAC.
Olivia Streatfeild, CEO at INTO, told The PIE that in her view, being close to the student decision-making experience is critical in a changing student recruitment ecosystem.
“We believe international student mobility can be best enabled through a perfectly balanced approach of in-market presence supported by local expertise and advanced technology, driving a seamless enrollment process,” she said.
The rollout of UACs is backed by a £7 million investment to date into physical, local and digital infrastructure in 14 locations worldwide.
A global partnership with the British Council also means that UACs will deliver computer-based IELTS testing in-market in key countries, building a direct rapport with students in particular countries and another reason for students to visit the centres.
“By 2023, we will deliver computer-delivered IELTS and other testing in at least 7 UAC locations around the world, putting partner universities in touch with thousands of prospective students,” Streatfeild told The PIE.
After an early pilot in Suzhou, China, INTO opened flagship centres in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam.
The INTO Hong Kong Office is being repurposed to become a UAC and “multi-function” office and new UACs are under development in Thailand, Colombia, Indonesia and New Delhi, India for launch in 2022.
Scheduled for 2023 openings are UACs in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Dubai, South Korea and Taiwan.
“With a committed investment of around £7m, we will have 14 centres across the world by the end of 2023 giving us unrivalled presence in the fastest growing international education markets,” said Streatfeild.
INTO’s new strategy comes at an interesting time, when a rise in digital applications channelled through a master agent platform is occurring and huge investment into these technologies.
Since 2020, partner universities with staff based in HCMC UAC have seen new student enrolments increase by 115%
“Our research shows that prospective international students and their parents are looking for a seamless recruitment experience and their decisions are enabled by face-to-face interactions in an increasingly info-flooded environment,” stated Streatfeild.
She cited a new survey in Vietnam undertaken by INTO which indicated 92% of students surveyed, and their parents, feel it is important or very important to be able to meet and speak to an agent or locally based university representative.
The UAC model is also interesting because the self-styled “education partnering” organisation will be offering institutions with which it doesn’t yet work the chance to embed within a UAC an in-country representative.
This means INTO is entering into the realm of in-country professional education services, similar to models offered by Acumen, Grok and CBBC in China.
Streatfeild underlined, “For our university partners, INTO will manage local staffing, make connections with powerful recruitment networks, spend up to ten times more time in-market, and deliver stronger outcomes.”
The PIE will be visiting the flagship UAC in Ho Chi Minh City in July
She explained that market dynamics – and student expectations – show that having in-country reps can be economically sensible as well as effective for conversion.
The company cited a statistic to back this up: since opening in February 2020, partner universities with staff based in the Ho Chi Minh City UAC have seen new student enrolments increase by 115% (and up 32% since pre-pandemic intake).
“In-market presence also significantly reduces the carbon footprint for universities having to fly staff to source markets several times in a year,” added Streatfeild.
INTO, which Streatfeild has led for a year, is planning to deliver dynamic information and counselling sessions in-person, enable virtual consultations or presentations, and engage with returning alumni to create a full-circle experience ecosystem.
“This includes measures such as an online application tracking platform and predictive analytics”
A key aspect of this strategy involves improvement in a global digital infrastructure with a focus on seamless conversion of applications.
“This includes measures such as student and agent ‘myAccount’ facility, online application tracking platform and predictive analytics,” Streatfeild revealed.
This will be further complemented by “boosting conversion teams based in source markets with added benefit of local knowledge and language expertise, with UACs serving as a prime example”.
- The PIE is visiting the UAC in Vietnam and conducting a live interview with Olivia Streatfeild on Monday July 11 and a webinar with sector commentators on Thursday July 14. You can register for both here. Follow our experience via instagram too!