The PIE: Why did you set up EdCo Latam?
Simon Terrington: My partner, Jamie Ash, and I established EdCo as we realised that we could improve the return on investment of international universities in Latin America. Broadly speaking, the typical international university strategy for Latin America is to visit (pre-covid) a couple of times a year, generally lacking resource to follow up and focus on the opportunities and leads gained during the visit.
“One of the key advantages of EdCo LATAM is that we have built up a network of contacts across all recruitment channels”
Often Latin America is considered as a bolt-on region to the existing territory remit of International Officers. EdCo offers a comprehensive in-market representation service where our university partners outsource what they would normally do in Latin America to EdCo.
Our key services are: establishing/maintaining an agent network based on the profile of our client (we manage a tailored strategy for each); participation in local events (either physical or virtual); partnership development with local universities, schools and colleges; budget allocation and management; scouting government scholarship opportunities; conversion; working on transnational education projects; and supporting the digital media strategy.
One of the key advantages of EdCo LATAM is that we have built up a network of contacts across all recruitment channels and have significant experience working with these stakeholders.
This effectively enables a smooth market entry into LATAM for international universities. We offer an integrated model where our staff function as part of the International Office of our partners. We have also fully immersed ourselves into the culture of Latin America and have adapted our business style accordingly.
The PIE: What impact has Covid-19 had on your client base?
ST: Our direct clients are universities based in Australia, Canada and the UK who have all been affected by Covid-19. This has mainly impacted on student recruitment numbers as well as how students are being taught. This has of course been challenging but we have worked closely with our clients to look at how we can continue to support them in the best way possible and look for new opportunities.
We still don’t know the full impact of Covid-19 on Latin American students planning to travel to study overseas. As readers are aware, Latin America has been hit hard socially and economically. However, there is still a strong demand for studying overseas.
In fact, we have been just as busy over the last few months as previously in terms of the volume of enquiries from students and stakeholders.
The PIE: Any predictions for 2021?
ST: I believe that 2021 will be a positive year for universities investing in Latin America although they need to be aware that students may be more likely to ask for financial support in the form of scholarships due to how families have been hit financially here. Students would prefer to study on campus rather than virtually.
The PIE: Are students too rankings-obsessed when considering university?
“Students have a hit list of universities and will not necessarily consider other options”
ST: This is a good question. Some students (probably about 20% across the region) will target the high ranked universities and will have carried out their research. Certain universities have a brand name across Latin America, built up through links they have had over the years and through the rankings they have in QS, etc.
Students have a hit list of universities and will not necessarily consider other options. This profile of student has typically studied at the highest-ranked universities in Latin America.
However, the vast majority of students will keep their options open and their decision will be based on: location of the university; programme options; recommendations (agent, personal); and scholarships available.
We stress that rankings are quite subjective and you also have to consider how closely a student’s personality and profile will be suited to a particular university as well as looking closely at subject rankings rather than general rankings.
The PIE: We are organising a session on Sustainability at The PIE Live. Can a university’s “green credentials” help swerve student choice in Latin America?
ST: Environmental concerns are definitely becoming more important in Latin America and these will increase in time, although unfortunately Latin America still has some work to do to move towards more environmentally friendly governments and policies.
I have noticed that there has been more demand for environment and sustainability programmes but these are still niche areas at present. Traditional courses which incorporate an environmental element will continue to gain popularity (i.e. Sustainability MBA´s)
The PIE: There has been a lot of investment reaching student recruitment platforms… are you worried that student recruitment, as a career, is being threatened by new tech?
ST: I welcome the development of student recruitment platforms as I feel these definitely have a place in the sector, especially with regards to helping to promote institutions. My main concern has always been “are students getting the best advice available?”
“I believe there will always be a role for face to face communication”
As the student recruitment sector becomes more competitive, recruitment platforms can represent a multitude of universities but it can be difficult to understand the proposition of the universities and their uniqueness. This is where representatives of the universities become important so they can help explain the key differentiators of their institution.
I believe there will always be a role for face to face communication (either physical or virtual) within the Latin American student recruitment industry as Latin Americans are very sociable and would generally prefer a personal meeting compared to entering a platform and not getting the intimacy you will build through more personal contact.
Coronavirus has proved that more business can be done online with some success but we shouldn’t discount the need for face to meetings with students that work really well here.
Coronavirus has had a big impact on university budgets so I can see that instead of representatives travelling to Latin America, more virtual events will take place and these can cover a wider region than physical events.
So whereas representatives previously went on tours around the continent, I can see these will be partly replaced by virtual events covering more countries (which have already started to happen). However, there will still be a demand for student recruitment professionals to communicate with stakeholders and add that personal touch as well as supporting the student application process.
Universities that are active here will enrol more students. This is where EdCo LATAM can support international universities, offering local presence at a competitive price.
The PIE: What else can you tell me about what and why when it comes to your students’ (and parents) motivations?
ST: The perception of both parents and students is that overseas universities afford higher quality education, offering a distinct form of teaching and learning which is perceived to be more practical and relevant, compared to local provision. Students will take between four to six years to finish an undergraduate level programme in Latin America, so time saved is another important factor.
Other motivators when considering studying overseas are the development of language skills and the global contacts and networks made.
Finally, students who have a university qualification from overseas often have better job opportunities when they return so a return on investment is another important consideration to choosing to study overseas.