Investing in International Student Recruitment

Courtesy BridgeU

I’m sorry but there are no free rides in the world of international student recruitment unless your institution is a global brand, e.g., Harvard, Oxford, etc. In the case of the US, think top 50, including Ivy League, schools. They built it a long time ago, have an international reputation, and prestige to spare. Students continue to apply – in droves – to institutions with acceptance rates in the single digits.

For everyone else in most markets, including Viet Nam, you need to do much more than simply sign agent agreements and expect the student pipeline to begin flowing freely. Your institution needs to invest in a variety of on- and offline activities. I can assure you that many of your competitors are doing exactly that.

A colleague recently told me that he saw no point in launching a marketing campaign in a country in which his institution is not well known. That of course is precisely the point of a marketing campaign at any level, to give your institution exposure in a very competitive market between US HE institutions and US educational institutions and with those from other high-demand overseas study destinations.

The colleague’s main point was that his institution has a very limited budget, hence the interest in an agent agreement, which only involves money in the form of commissions if the agent sends students to the partner institution in question. Is it possible to do this only via an agent agreement? Yes, if A) you’re lucky; or B) your commission is high. The latter is key because most education agents are largely motivated by money and will guide, or pressure, their student clients to go to the highest bidders, so to speak. That’s the nature of the beast, an unethical and depressing reality. (For more information about the fatal flaw in commission-based international student recruitment, have a look at this 2018 University World News article by me and Eddie West: An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment.)

I understand that these are tough times for many institutions but the bottom line, figuratively and literally, is this: If you can’t afford to invest in international student recruitment, you’re ultimately fighting a losing battle – with few exceptions.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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