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USA: Update and expand overseas recruitment urges WES

Universities in the US are missing out on increasing overseas students by not taking a campus-wide approach to their recruitment strategies according to World Education Services (WES). The organisation has also suggested overhauling digital marketing campaigns that are some five years behind the user habits of target student groups.

"Where China was earlier India may be in the next few years"

Based on a survey of 4,800 international degree-seeking applicants, WES found that current students, alumni and faculty exert the most influence on Millennial (17-36 years old) students’ choice for overseas higher education.

“We’ve developed recruitment strategies and there are these stakeholders which can really facilitate the process but we keep them outside”

“These are the groups of people which are completely under appreciated and under utilised in recruitment strategies,” commented Rahul Choudaha Chief Knowledge Officer & Senior Director of Strategic Development at WES.

“This is one of those wake up calls. We’ve developed recruitment strategies and there are these stakeholders which can really facilitate the process but we keep them outside.”

Among all levels of students, 42% said the university network was the most influential factor in their decision during the application period. The proportion rises to 44% of surveyed Masters students and 49% of doctoral students.

Family meanwhile is the second most influential group, with most leverage in the decision process of Bachelor’s students, and educational consultants only significant for 11% of all respondents.

Providing information and engaging with students on multiple platforms is the next step institutions must make to remain relevant to prospective recruits.

Almost all (91%) of survey respondents used a personal computer during their university searches and more than half (56%) used a smart phone and a quarter (26%) used a tablet.

“In building their strategies universities might presume that digital is not necessarily the way to go into these markets,” said Choudaha. “But the group of students we are looking for for undergraduate and graduate are highly engaged with technology.”

He added that “students are definitely looking forward to ways to engage with universities through digital mechanisms but the structure, the prophecies, strategies which universities are currently working with are five years old.”

The findings are among a series of reports released by WES which aim to provide market insights based on psychographic breakdowns of students.

“Like there are different segments of students, who have different needs, similarly there are different types of institutions with different needs”

WES has identified four student profiles– high flier, explorer, striver and struggler– each with different motivations to study overseas and responding to different types of marketing.

High fliers– students who are wealthy and excel academically– are more likely to own a tablet and check, read or send emails several times a day claims WES.

Students who are less financially well off but are academically prepared, identified as strivers, were likely to have browsed or posted on social media sites within the previous 24 hours.

Universities risk lower student retention and mismatching students’ expectations by not identifying which type of student to recruit WES argues.

“Like there are different segments of students, who have different needs, similarly there are different types of institutions with different needs,” said Choudaha.

“Depending on what is the strategic priority and need of that university, they should look for the most relevant and feasible segment of student to recruit.”

In the paper WES also provides market breakdowns based on the segmentation for India and China revealing what Choudaha argues could be the future recruitment landscape in the USA.

“If we look at the undergraduate level for Indian students that’s where China started picking up four to five years ago,” he said. “Where China was earlier India may be in the next few years. There is already that wave at the graduate level coming for Indian students while China is flattening.”

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