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What’s next in student recruitment for the year ahead?

Evolving recruitment channels in international education will be a hallmark of 2014’s legacy. From developments in the agent debate to expanding MOOCs, booms in TNE and new models of direct interaction with students, key trends this year will centre around nuanced ways in which educators are finding, attracting and enrolling international students, reports Sara Custer.
January 10 2014
6 Min Read

Foundation blocks towards a more sophisticated and multi-faceted approach to international student recruitment and enrolment were set in 2013. Highlighted in some stories of last year and some which are stories under wraps and in beta stage, how will the development of new channels to attract foreign students affect international education in 2014?

Not surprisingly, technology is set to be omnipresent and play a crucial role in how institutions communicate with prospective students this year. For example, at the end of last year, ICEF launched its Coursefinders website, slated to be the Trip Advisor of the international language school industry. The site aims to have upwards of half a million users by the end of this year.

While not the first of its kind, is has been developed by one of the study travel industry’s best known brands, with 7,000 schools already listed. The social technology platform maintains a place for education agencies within the system, enabling language schools in the online ratings directory to forward any enquiries to a local agency.

Pearson is now enabling a new marketing channel direct to students, for a fee

Another new innovation in the study travel space is Blabloo, a free language exchange platform that connects teenagers studying at language schools around the world. Launched in September, the Spain-based developers aim to have 100,000 young people using the service by the end of 2014. “We want to be the worldwide reference in terms of online language exchanges,” says founder Loic Malsch.

If the site takes off, schools signing up to the site will have the added advantage of bundled language practice to sell to prospective clients, who increasingly want to link offline and online learning together.

Also directly targeting students, Pearson launched its Progression + website in mid-2013, which gives students (most likely exam clients) admission and pathway information on partner universities. Alongside its Degree Course Finder service for students, Pearson is now enabling a new marketing channel direct to students, for a fee.

Institutions can decide their level of collaboration with the website– starting at just a listing and extending to being specifically promoted at one of the company’s 80 centres worldwide.

David Willetts, UK Minister of Science and Innovation, noted that MOOCs will not disrupt traditional brick-and-mortar institutions but the recruitment channels they use

Likely, we can expect to see more non-traditional players offering recruitment services via their global networks in the coming year.

Additionally, the role of social networks in student recruitment isn’t going to wane any time soon. Alongside Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn’s presence in the industry expanded with the launch of University Pages last year. Current and prospective students as well as alumni are automatically connected through the institution’s network allowing educators to showcase success stories and provide peer review.

Two years after the New York Times declared 2012 the “Year of the MOOC”, free web-based education courses will continue to increase access to education, giving providers a new digital storefront to allow potential students to try before they buy.

Seeing the marketing value of MOOCs, the US government partnered with Coursera in November to establish learning hubs at select embassies around the world and to serve as “test drives” for the US as a study destination.

“The future is about technology-enabled blended learning”

MOOC advocate, David Willetts, UK Minister of Science and Innovation, noted that MOOCs will not disrupt traditional brick-and-mortar institutions but the recruitment channels they use. The University of London’s experience suggests he may be right. This institution attracted at least 45 students on to its fee-paying degree programmes after its first round of MOOCs on the Coursera platform.

While MOOCs courses might not ever become financially profitable for universities, they are starting to become successful marketing tools, as advocated in one of last year’s PIE Videos by Professor Bernie Morley from University of Bath.

Concepts of tech-led global education will also continue to evolve in 2014. Silicon Valley venture Minerva Schools at KGI is enrolling its first trial cohort this September, teaching via live video-links and integrated digital tools incorporating global rotation as essential seeds of a future-forward education.

Online tuition will also gain traction greatly influencing traditional student mobility flows.  Transnational education will meet the demand for foreign education in emerging markets in nuanced ways in 2014, increasing the value of in-country recruitment.

Education providers are a looking towards the pathway pipeline to connect their language students with higher education institutions

“As compared to previous years, when strategies revolved around campus-based models, the future is about technology-enabled blended learning,” says Dr. Rahul Choudaha director of research & strategy at World Education Services in New York. “In this context, competency-based education will interact with MOOCs’ innovation to create new models of international online higher education.”

New ways of collecting and reading data will also begin to open doors to new recruitment opportunities. In December of last year, UK-based OC&C partnered with Google to show university rankings based on internet searches. The results revealed interest from non-traditional source markets and analysts used the data to predict growth markets for the next six years. Data measurement and collection will become increasingly sophisticated in the sector.

Offline, the feed from international schools and pathway programmes into higher education and further education will grow in 2014 as emerging middle classes seek out seamless channels for the new multi-polar academic journey.

The International School Consultancy group expects to see 7,200 international schools teaching over 3.7million students in English in the next year, all producing outward-looking graduates with funds to pay for a foreign degree.

A slew of private investors made waves in the industry in 2013 by jostling to enter the pathways sector, an “exciting space that has delivered remarkable growth and profitability over recent years” according to one consultant commenting on CEG’s sale late last year to Bridgepoint Capital. US-based and private equity backed Shorelight Education was another new player on the scene in 2013, announcing partnerships with universities in both the UK and the USA.

Existing education providers are also increasingly looking towards the pathway pipeline as a way to connect their language students with higher education institutions. UK-based ISIS education announced its first pathway with De Montfort University last month with plans to expand into the USA soon and Eurocentres launched its Unicentres brand with a partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and additional collaborations with universities in Canada and the USA.

ISC expects to see 7,200 international schools teaching over 3.7million students in English in the next year

Standards and practices when using commission-based agents will be scrutinised in the coming year by both educators and agencies, with some innovations occurring as a result of agency-based recruitment.

The landmark NACAC ruling in September, allowing its US institutional members to use commission-based agents to recruit students, stipulated that educators ensure accountability, transparency, and integrity in the interactions. There are predictions that as a result of the decision, the US’s market share will grow in emerging markets, especially Africa.

Fanta Aw, President of NAFSA, sums up the mood: “The issue of the agent debate really needs to be shifting not from ‘is it happening?’– because we know it is – to, in the context of the US, ‘what is it going to take to do it right?’.”

In the UK, a new service is set to launch in early 2014 that aims to protect all stakeholders during the recruitment process, from application to graduation. AMLAPS is a new “ecosystem” designed by an ex-college director determined to safeguard vetted education agents, institutions and students by offering an insurance bond to all those operating within its system.

Agency associations that don’t already have standardisation systems in place will move in that direction in 2014

Zakaria Mahmood’s idea is to link vetted UK institutions with a global network of agencies that have met a kitemark standard and enable joint use of a secure escrow account system. “As an industry we are partly to blame [for mistrust],” he says. “We have to take immigration compliance more seriously.”

Agency associations in Spain, Turkey and China have already taken the initiative to establish regulations and accreditation schemes in order to improve their sector. There’s no doubt that other agency associations that don’t already have standardisation systems in place will move in that direction in 2014.

Next generation education agencies can also look forward to a possible new tech platform for b2b bookings in the language teaching industry. An Australian operator is already raising expectations with his beta-stage Salesforce-backed booking platform. Due to be launched this year, the platform could modernise the industry and be a “win win” for schools and agencies seeking to maximise efficiency. Expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

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