Other insights gleaned from the plenary session showed that students want to receive more information through videos and photos including what an actual English class is like, what their homestay accommodation looks like and what past students have to say.
Some students told delegates that they chose their school or city based only on word of mouth endorsements from someone they knew. Rashed, from Kuwait, for example, only sought options in Bath because of a recommendation about the city.
Others said they chose their education agent who helped them select a school based on a suggestion from a friend.
Bruna from Brazil said she chose her school because her cousin had recommended it and only looked at the school’s website once to find the address. She recommended the school to two of her friends in Brazil who booked courses there as well.
Discussions also underlined the important role agents play in the decision and admission process, especially for students who had to apply for visas to study in the UK. One student pointed out his loyalty to an agent, saying he returned three times to use their services.
He couldn’t differentiate between the quality of schools or compare prices by searching online
Another spoke about how valuable it is to have a representative from the agency on the ground in the city and that they would be a first port-of-call before a school, in cases of need.
Students expressed their desire to know more about their host families as they often felt they were placed in homes randomly. They said communication with their hosts before they arrived was important and they’d like to receive photos of what their accommodation will look like.
Delegates were also given honest reviews of their digital outreach strategies. Fernando from Spain wanted to book direct but couldn’t differentiate between the quality of schools or compare prices by searching online. Ultimately, he went to an agent to help him decide.
Students who did successfully search for courses on their own said they judged schools’ quality based on prices. Considering it the lowest quality, students didn’t choose the cheapest course; they also didn’t book the most expensive, but opted for a mid-priced option.
The use of video in marketing materials received praise from the students, especially when it explained information about the school, as some found websites too hard to navigate.
One student said a video of a real class in session would have been helpful to know more about the school while another recommend schools post videos instead of written testimonials from past students.
One student said a video of a real class in session would have been helpful to know more about the school
Maria from Colombia, meanwhile, championed her school’s offer of a free taster class given that she was already here on a spouse visa when choosing a school.
Social media was useful for the students to find out more information about the school and one student added that she uses social networks while she’s studying to know what’s happening in the school’s social programme.
Thirty students from 19 countries studying at higher education and language providers across the UK shared their experiences with some 150 delegates.
Andrew Edwards, principal at LSI Portsmouth said the event was “one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done at one of these workshops for many years and we should do more.”
“We had a student from Russia and were able to really investigate what she thought,” he commented.
“She said it was really important for principals to get out of their offices and talk to students, and that’s one thing I’ve learned today.”
Rebecca Willis, marketing directer at Eastbourne School of English, noted that the event “really highlighted to us that not all student journeys are the same”.
Extended coverage of the table discussions will be available soon.