Blog 🏛️ University 24th March 2023

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore International Schools in Your Recruitment Strategy

Profile image of Zahra Onsori
Zahra Onsori University Content Writer
Geopolitical and social factors are shifting the landscape of education, which is why you can no longer ignore international schools when creating an enrolment strategy.

In the last decade, the international student body has exploded. Data from HolonIQ has predicted that 8 million international students will be enrolled into higher education by 2030 – 3 million more than were abroad in 2019.

Whilst not all of these students will be studying abroad, these stats highlight that the global demand for higher education is growing exponentially and can’t afford to be missed by universities.

In the last few years, we’ve all witnessed the effect that geopolitical and environmental factors have had on the world, which has naturally shifted the educational sector.

As it stands, we are witnessing the highest geographical mobility than ever before. Borders no longer serve as big of a barrier as they used to as students decide whether to study halfway across the world or not.

Synchronous with Brexit, data has shown a continuous decline in the number of European students choosing to study in UK universities. Across the pond, American higher education facilities are also seeing a slow decline in domestic university applicants, with undergraduate enrollments falling each year since 2011.

These examples highlight how 2023 poses new challenges, and why it’s so important to consider them when it comes to the university recruitment landscape.

But first, let’s break down exactly what an international school is.

Get in touch

Learn how BridgeU can help you align your enrolment strategy with your international student audience.

How are international schools defined?

In 2009, the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) coined the following set of criteria to identify international schools. They will hold at least one of the following;

  • A variety of cultures, ethnicities and languages from students and staff
  • An internationally recognised curriculum system, such as the international baccalaureate (IB)
  • It is an internationally accredited school, such as the Council of British International Schools (COBIS).
  • Teaching in English, with the further obligation to take on one additional language

Whilst this doesn’t mean this set of criteria is only found in international schools, you are more likely to find them in these kinds of secondary institutions.

As it stands, the number of students enrolling at international schools has gone up by 53%, from 4.2 million to 6.5 million. In Asia alone, market growth has also increased by 52%, with a 62.4% enrolment growth.

These figures highlight how influential the international student market is, and showcase why they are crucial to build in a recruitment strategy.

They are great places for recruiters to learn about students’ regional preferences as well as tracking future trends of where student interest lies.

International schools will also aid in diversifying your student body, and will create bonds with regional schools that you can draw upon year after year.

Most importantly, by tailoring your recruitment strategy and serving the needs of the growing international student body, you’ll be winning over a market of unexplored talent, as well as gaining an understanding of what students want.

Let’s delve deeper into the reasons why international schools should be an integral part of your recruitment strategy.

International schools give students the tools to prepare better for higher education

International schools are often well-respected for their robust curricula and academic rigour. Many universities continue to be impressed with how well they seem to prepare students for higher education.

International curriculums are often designed to follow a pathway to higher education, which means students will have more awareness of further education, and may have a better understanding as to which university they’d like to go to.

International schools also help aid the development of soft skills. This is useful because students’ confidence, creativity, collaborative learning and critical thinking are essential to their integration at university, as well as navigating a foreign country. Students and staff are also more likely to be multilingual and culturally savvy at these schools due to the exposure to different cultures, nationalities and ethnicities.

This leads nicely to the next point.

International schools increase the likelihood of having a more diverse student body

For schools teaching an international curriculum such as the IB, they are often home to students from a range of diverse cultural and socio-demographic backgrounds, and it’s not uncommon for students to be multilingual or to have grown up in different countries.

International schools are not just places of academia, but serve as a community hub for various places around the globe. They are the foundations for creating new pockets of community in a globalised world.

Watch: 5 reasons why international schools need to be integral to your enrolment strategy

For example, the UAE contains 200+ international schools, a figure which has grown exponentially in the last decade. One reason for this has been a growth in demand for a diversity of workers in certain parts of the UAE, in which international schools are a pivotal part of parents’ decision-making when deciding where to move.

Local students and parents are also placing greater value on these schools due to the internationally recognised curriculums, diversity, and links to higher education in Western countries.

International school counsellors are an admissions rep’s best friend

Counsellors are a crucial point of contact for students, and are responsible for aiding students at every step in their career and academic application process.

Whilst it may not seem so apparent on the outside, identifying the counselling environment of an international school is key to understanding what type of engagement will work best for the students.

Ultimately, counsellors are the gatekeepers to students at their school, which means they have a great oversight on the application process. Understanding their needs will be rewarded with getting contextual access to the school you want to work with.

For example, a counsellor will be able to give you instant oversight of the most popular destination countries for students at their school. They can also give you anecdotal and contextual information about the most common obstacles students might face in the admissions process.

Whilst this role is typically referred to as a guidance counsellor, other names fall under the umbrella such as;

  • Career advisors
  • University guidance officer
  • International university counsellor
  • Senior school counsellor
  • Head of sixth form

However, the role of a counsellor goes deeper than this. They are advocates for their students’ questions, concerns and ambitions, and their application success is pivotal to the quality and quantity of guidance given.

Depending on the size and resources available to the school, this guidance team will vary.

In our experience, sometimes university reps can make the mistake of having a transactional approach when speaking with international school counsellors and career advisers, which can fundamentally misunderstand the role they play.

However, building mutually beneficial links with local counsellors is key to growing good relationships with international schools on a global scale.

It’s so important to understand the unique context of the international school you reach out to, as this will help you gain a broader understanding of the school you plan to work with.

In our experience, international school counsellors are great at networking with one another. Visit any region or recruitment market and you’ll quickly find forums where counsellors are coming together, sharing knowledge and resources, and building communities.

For example, one of BridgeU’s leading counsellors in the UAE is the chair of the NAFSA Middle East group, a network which gives international schools greater visibility over visits from universities like yours.

This is great for recruiters, as being introduced to one international school may create a snowball effect that could potentially open up a wider market for universities.

Speaking of markets, this leads us to our last point.

International schools can allow your recruitment team to better understand your target market

As discussed earlier, international schools can be a great gateway to understanding the international market and gaining quality applications from students all around the world.

International schools act as a window of opportunity for recruiters, and can give key takeaways on demographic trends of the enrolment market. They allow an insight into the global market of students, as well as an understanding of how each region differs. This knowledge is valuable when tailoring a recruitment strategy.

For example, if you’re dealing with a mid-market international school, it is possible that the cost of student fees and living abroad will be more of a decisive factor when it comes to choosing which university to study at. 

International schools can also help you understand regional trends over time

For example, BridgeU’s customer success team have found that schools in the West African region are more likely to follow a UK syllabus, which may influence their decision when applying to schools that follow other curriculums.

For universities outside of the UK, this may mean providing additional resources and support on this topic for students less familiar with your curriculum system.

Focusing recruitment strategies on international schools may generate a higher ROI. According to our statistics, BridgeU data found that in 2022, 70% of international applicants in BridgeU schools were accepted into higher education, with this figure already rising in the 2023 cycle. This data highlights the impact of what a tailored recruitment strategy can do.

If you are interested in learning more about why using international schools are important when building an enrolment strategy, you can watch our webinar recording, ‘Five Reasons Why International Schools Need To Be Integral To Your 2023 Enrolment Strategy,’ which can be found earlier on in this article. 

Get in touch

Learn how BridgeU can help you align your enrolment strategy with your international student audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *