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Edwin van Rest, CEO, StudyPortals

EvR: Yes. Some people cannot come at all to a study centre, want to do everything online, some of them are ok with doing exams, some of them do want interaction with students, some of them really want to study “asynchronously” as it’s called, so you only study in your own time…

"In the last five years, Europe has become a player and I think Asia will do the same in the coming ten"

The PIE: Across your portals, are users mainly European or from elsewhere too?

EvR: About half of our visitors come from Europe, 25% from Asia, 15% from the Americas and then we have a little bit like 8% from Africa and 2% from Australia.

The PIE: Are you seeing any trends?

EvR: Actually we see that because of these changes in visa restrictions, especially in the UK, distance learning is becoming more of an option for students in countries where they cannot get a visa but still want to get a UK degree.

The PIE: And what’s the price comparison?

EvR: It’s not much cheaper. Well the tuition fee is not much cheaper.

“Half of our visitors come from Europe, 25% come from Asia, 15% come from the Americas”

The PIE: Really?

EvR: No. So the margin for the institute is much higher as you can imagine. Of course, there is no traveling involved, allocation order, there is no accommodation involved. Most of the time students are doing this and working.

The PIE: And how are you promoting your site in Asia or in Latin America? Is that all viral?

EvR: Most of it is viral; we only do dedicated marketing in China.

The PIE: Where do you see the big growth in demand in the future in terms of students’ source markets? Do you see any changes ahead?

EvR: I think the biggest changes will be on the delivery side, because you’ll see that Asia will start offering. So in let’s say in the last five years Continental Europe has become a player and embedded the field for talent, and I think Asia will do the same in the coming ten years. I hope that in general students will continue to go abroad and markets are going to grow. The EU has the objective to reach 20% mobility by 2020 and that is still quite a challenge.

The PIE: Key to your success?

EvR: I think one of the keys of our success is that we were lucky in the beginning to find a concept that really works. And the statistics showed us that there’s a big need for it.

Maybe it’s because we really were owning this problem ourselves when we started it, and it is really coming from the student perspective. We do a lot of testing with students and experimentation to find out what works. We try to explore and release a new version of the site every week.

“Because of visa restrictions, especially in the UK, distance learning is becoming more of an option for students”

Secondly we commit to providing the best enrolment results for universities. We work with them intensively, measuring the effects of their cooperation as accurately as possible. This is the prime reason why so many universities joined and stayed with us.

The PIE: Do you really tweak your website every week? How many staff have you got working on the platform?

EvR: Actually we have 12 in the programming team and then we have five working in our – we call it ‘student value team’ – which is doing the experiments, interviewing students, doing testing with students to see where the needs are and where we can improve.

The PIE: Where do you find student testers?

EvR: We typically use local international students. So we have students from China and from India, and from everywhere in Eindhoven, Holland [where StudyPortals is based] who use the website and feedback to us.

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