Blog 🏛️ University 22nd September 2023

3 Effective Strategies For Recruiting International Students From a New Source Market

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Zahra Onsori University Content Writer

Are your international recruitment channels future proof? 

Holon IQ has predicted that by 2030, the HE sector will be worth 10 trillion dollars, with the next decade seeing 800 million more K12 students. 

Whilst this is great news for universities, as international student mobility rises, so does competition. In an already globally competitive marketplace, it will become harder for universities to compete for student talent, especially in oversaturated markets.

And with the uncertainty of the future of big source markets like China, all it takes is one policy change to disrupt the balance of international student mobility.

So before it’s too late, it’s important to take active steps towards diversifying recruitment channels.

By doing so, this not only gives your student cohort the opportunity to reflect a truly global population, but, if done right, will supply stable recruitment pipelines for years to come.

But diversifying into a new source market can be a challenging feat; it can take time, resources, and a precise recruitment strategy in order to see a return on investment. 

That’s why we’re sharing our 3 key strategies to follow when recruiting from a new source market, to ensure you’re on the right track to successfully diversifying and growing your international student cohort.

Rethinking your data analysis when recruiting from a new market

Data is an important component when it comes to building a regional recruitment strategy, so it’s important to take your time and collect the right market-intelligence.

However, what constitutes the ‘right’ data? 

Are you leaning on historical data too much? International student mobility trends are changing all the time, which is why it’s so important to work with data that showcases real-time insights. By basing your recruitment decisions on current student movement trends, this will also maximise your return on investment in a new source market.

Is your data consistent and high quality? Insights on what’s governing international students’ journey through the application and enrolment may come from a variety of channels, whether it’s your internal CRM or Google Analytics. Can you map out useful ‘data stories’ to help guide your decision-making?

If there were previous attempts to recruit from this market, do some internal investigation to see what you can learn to inform your own strategy. Why was this market seen as a priority? If a decision was made to de-prioritise it, why? How has this market changed or evolved since the last time you tried to recruit from it? 

Once you have this internal data, it’s important to see if the numbers signify whether this specific region is a worthwhile investment.

If this is a completely new region, or you only have historical data within your database, look at what secondary data sources are saying. In the scope of higher education, companies such as IHE, Common App, UCAS, BridgeU and OpenDoors are publishing reports and giving real-time insight into student mobility. Utilise these resources. 

For UK universities, it can also be useful to look at recruitment data trends from HESA to see how your competitors are performing in these emerging markets, and if there are any working strategies that you can learn from.

Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s important to combine your quantitative data with qualitative. If you’re rethinking your approach to a new market, it’s always worth looking at ways you can expand your market intelligence by building up your networks in a particular region.

Struggling to build international brand awareness?

Read these 6 simple strategies to increase your global profile to prospective international applicants.

The power of community

So you’ve got your data. But maybe you’re unsure where to begin when it comes to collecting student insights in a sustainable manner. Or maybe you have access to real-time student insights, but have minimal insight into the new source market you’re looking to diversify into. 

You’re certainly not alone. 

Which is why the second strategy, harnessing the power of community, is so important. 

These community networks will be key to fuelling your localised recruitment strategy as they will provide a window of insight into this new region. Again, there is no ‘one size fits all’, and depending on your resources and local community, some options may be more feasible than others. 

But here are some important community networks to consider when diversifying your recruitment strategy.

Building regional counsellor relations

Counsellors can provide useful qualitative insights that can further fuel your regional recruitment strategy. They can provide you with useful, real-time information such as;

  • What subjects students are interested in 
  • Study destinations students within the region are interested in
  • Barriers to enrolling in your country and institution
  • What students look for in prospective universities
  • The concerns and needs of parents

This information is particularly useful when diversifying into a new source market, as these insights allow you to amend your recruitment strategy as you go along, saving you time and resources in the long run.

Learn why building relationships with counsellors is crucial to your international recruitment strategy.

Make the most of your in-country resources

Whilst we’ve adapted through Covid-19 to utilise digital methods more, interpersonal relationships are not something that can be forged the same way through a screen. However at the same time, in country visits are not always financially feasible.

So, the happy medium is to allocate your university resources to combine hybrid and in person interactions.

Feedback from our school counsellors highlighted that they valued in person events and interactions. But at the same time, digital interactions can be more convenient due to their busy schedules.

But counsellors noted that the type of outreach was important, as generic emails were more likely to overwhelm them and get lost in their inbox.

So think about how you can strategise your in-person and digital outreach to maximise your returns.

For example, whilst it may be worthwhile investing resources into in-person visits for more mature markets, consider exploring digital channels to branch out into emerging source markets.

Note: Attending global counsellor events and conferences worldwide are a great way to maximise in-person visits.

Build relationships with the local international community within your region

The next best thing is to build local relations that have ties to this international community. For example, if you’re wanting to diversify undergraduate cohorts in Vietnam, look at building relationships with your local Vietnamese community. 

This also stands for alumni and current students. Our counsellor insights have highlighted that students can be apprehensive when applying to a university that doesn’t have a community reflective of their own identity.

So, leveraging your current and past students in your marketing outreach is incredibly important, especially when looking to diversify further into this region. 

Think about creating region specific content with your students, such as ‘a day in the life as an international student from X region’ and utilising these students in peer recruitment programmes.

Take into consideration what students in this region want from your university

You have the data. You’re building a community. So the next thing to do is put the student findings at the heart of your strategy. For example, you know you want more international enrolments from Vietnam, but think about what type of students and what subject you want to diversify within your institution. 

By doing so, it will allow you to market your offering with pinpoint precision and recruit students that are the right fit for your institution, as opposed to casting your net wide and waiting for any students to apply from this region.

Our international school counsellor networks have highlighted that students face different barriers to enrolment depending on where they live, which is why it’s so important to personalise your offer. And once again, it’s important to not rely too much on historical data here, as student trends and barriers to enrolment are also frequently shifting.

Most importantly, by tailoring your offer to what students want, it will allow you to establish gradual and attainable milestones that are easy to track over an extended period of time. 

This is incredibly important when recruiting from a new region, as it will give you oversight of what strategies are working and which ones aren’t, allowing you to make the necessary amends along the way.

And that’s it. That concludes the three strategies. The next steps for you will be to put these three strategies into action. 

If you need support doing so, contact our team to see how we can help you achieve your goals in diversifying into a new source market today. 

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