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“Pain points” in UK international offices in focus

Over half of attendees were concerned about “the future shape of the international office” at the PIE Live’s solutions room on March 23, the final event of the two-day conference.

Leading professionals in international offices discuss the “pain points” experienced in student recruitment. Photo: Roger Harris

The group also discussed whether the UK needs more agents to avoid losing "the market share of our students"

Delegates discussed the “pain points” they experience in their day-to-day roles with others from the sector, in a session aimed at providing the opportunity for peer-to-peer support and problem-solving.

Talking about the changing role of the international office, participants agreed that more training is needed to help staff adjust to the role of digital technology and social media in international student recruitment and engagement.

“We all need to be retrained,” said one delegate, who works in a university international team.

Participants also discussed graduate employability, agent management and demand, and the integration of private providers in recruitment.

Many expressed worries over limited funding and resources, coupled with the need to expand to meet market demand as the sector bounces back from Covid-19. Some argued that the sector needs to be more “creative” and “nimble” amid these anxieties.

“We all need to be retrained”

Attendees also shared their concerns about the environmental sustainability of the sector, particularly as travel restrictions lift.

“We’re seeing attendance at online events dropping,” one participant noted, while the group discussed how travel can be utilised more appropriately, with some taking the stance that meeting students face-to-face is crucial to their experience.

“If you don’t go out there, you’re going to have a real problem. You have to understand the students that are coming,” another participant argued.

“Students need to talk to someone who is there and understands the market,” a separate participant added, referring to the role of local agencies in the recruitment market.

The group also discussed whether the UK needs more agents to avoid losing “the market share of our students”.

Shileen Costain, director and global market development at PTE Pearson, said Pearson is “very much about working with our clients to come together and find solutions to meet challenges”.

“The UK sector often is in danger of making us compete against each other,” said session host Nicholas Cuthbert, “and we’re kind of coached into competing against each other when actually I think as a sector, we could learn and help each other a lot.”

Additional reporting by Helen Packer.

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