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THE and Study Group collaborate on student enquiries via rankings sites

International students visiting various university rankings websites managed by Times Higher Education will soon have the option of reaching an education counsellor, via a new partnership with global education company Study Group.

Students will be able to click on the Apply now button and be directed to Study Group-trained counselling staff.

Both parties will review the successes and reassess the commercial arrangements after 12-months

From March onwards, international students will find an “Apply now” button linked to many of the partner universities of Study Group, which works with 49 universities worldwide.

“At the moment, we’re only seeking permission to [counsel] with existing partners”

They will be able to engage with advisers at Study Group’s call centres in either Australia, the UK, Singapore or the US, via a call back from an email enquiry or phone enquiry.

Paul Levett, chief commercial officer at Study Group, explained that the counselling will happen under the university brand, so the Study Group name will be “quite invisible”.

“We are not planning to counsel between brands,” he said. “So if a student is interested in [University of] Sydney but they don’t have entry requirements, of course one of the benefits for us is we run the pathway program and can offer that, but we’ll very much be counselling via the brand under which the student enquires, as long as we have the permission to do so.”

Study Group is currently liaising with its university partners for which it does not have “direct-admit” approval about this opportunity. Levett said Study Group already had direct-admit arrangements with most of its North American partners but not so in the UK or Australia.

“We can gather significantly more information and insight that helps our overall data proposition [for university clients]”

Asked what would happen with student enquiries that were focused on institutions that were not Study Group partners, Levett said that these would be referred back to the THE site with the university’s contact details listed.

“At the moment, we’re only seeking permission to [counsel] with existing partners,” he told The PIE News.

For those existing partners with direct-admit approcal, this is “effectively a new source of leads for the arrangement we already have”, he clarified, noting that partner feedback so far is “very positive”.

Trevor Barratt, managing director of TES Global which owns THE, explained that his interest in the tie-up was because the company is interested in gaining more granular data around the behaviour of its student visitors.

“Our view is that we can gather significantly more information and insight that helps our overall data proposition [for university clients],” he explained.

Reaching 28 million unique visitors per year, Barratt said that while rankings products focused their relationship on universities worldwide, he acknowledged that many students used their research-led and teaching-led rankings.

“There was no, what I would call, two-way feedback [for students],” he added, noting that the venture with Study Group will offer more insight into institution and program choice.

This is, “significantly more information on the whole student journey [and] this enables us to sell that info through our data products back to universities to help them improve their performance”, he said.

Barratt noted that the company would not be seeking to replicate this partnership with other private education companies. “That would confuse our offer, essentially.”

“We are not planning to counsel between brands”

Levett explained that both parties would be reviewing the success of the synergy and reassessing the commercial arrangements after a 12-month period.

“What we don’t know is whether we can capture [students] or not at that stage [in their decision-making process] to an outcome that works for us and our partners. That’s what we’re trying to prove.”

Part of the arrangement between THE and Study Group has been a remodelling of THE’s rankings sites in Mandarin so that they are accessible for students in China.

“Given the market for international students is so big in China, we were very keen for [TES Global] to elevate their brand and get more traffic there,” commented Levett.

The link-up marks an interesting new recruitment strategy for Study Group, while in the US, fellow education company Shorelight has teamed up with American rankings site US News & World Report.

They  launched a subsidiary company, US News & Global Education, running an international student-facing site.

Levett acknowledged, “There’s a realisation among people like me at the marketing end of the business that we need to influence the students earlier in their decision making journey and to do that cost-effectively without multi-million marketing budgets is difficult; you’ve got to work with partners and [find] different ways of doing it.”

THE’s best known rankings site is the World University Rankings, which lists the top 1,000 universities in the world.

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