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UK universities behind the curve as mobile use rises sharply

UK universities’ websites are failing to keep up with the sharply rising trend among prospective international students of using mobile devices to search for information about study abroad, a new study has shown.

“In places like West Africa, where connectivity through landlines is very expensive, mobile phone usage and mobile advertising is going to be very persuasive in the next couple of years”

Over a quarter – 27% – of enquiries made to student-facing website, Study International, in 2014 were via mobile, up from 11.9% the previous year, the company’s joint white paper Digital device trends among international students shows.

35% of university home pages and 40% of international student pages were not mobile-friendly

However, of the 121 university websites audited, 35% did not have mobile-friendly home pages and 40% did not have mobile-friendly international student pages.

In addition, mobile ready sites received an average ‘user experience’ score of just 6/10, determined by features such as design, usability and download speeds.

As well as analysing data generated by more than 90,500 enquiries to the website in 2013 and 2014, the analysis, conducted by the University of Salford Business School, included a deep-dive census of 804 students from four key markets.

It revealed that Nigeria has the highest rate of mobile usage, at 34.83%, followed by Colombia (25.93%) and Malaysia (23.88%), while Jordan had just 13.98%.

Tablet use was highest in Colombia but stood at an average of 9.75% across the difference markets.

As a result, the proportion of laptop users ranged from just over half in Nigeria to over three quarters in Jordan.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 17.47.13The disparity may be largely down to infrastructure, the white paper suggests.

For example, Nigeria’s average 3G mobile internet is more than twice as fast as in Jordan – 2.1Mb compared with 1Mb/s.

And the information may help to inform institutions’ strategies when marketing to different audiences, Study International’s managing director, James Craven, told The PIE News

“I think that in places like West Africa, where it’s pretty obvious that connectivity through landlines has not been established and it’s very expensive, that mobile phone usage and mobile advertising is going to be very persuasive in the next couple of years and I think it’s going to have to be a very important part of the strategy,” Craven said.

“It’s that single year rapid increase that took us aback a little bit, and might make people stop to think”

While the trend towards mobile was expected, the rate of change has been somewhat surprising, he added.

“It’s that single year rapid increase that took us aback a little bit, and might make people stop to think,” Craven commented.

“To go from near 10% to 30% in that time perdiod, when you haven’t necessarily changed your advertising techniques dramatically to create those results shows to us that there’s a rising proportion of the prospective student marketplace who are using mobile phones to search.”

The white paper has been downloaded 3,000 times in the five days since it was published.

And Study International will “definitely” gather the same data in 12 months’ time to see how trends continue to change, Craven confirmed.

Digital device trends among international students is available for download here.

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