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Recruiting Intelligence

International Student Recruitment in Russia

At the 2013 ICEF Toronto Workshop I had the pleasure of attending several thoughtful sessions. One of those sessions, led by Anna Ryzhova of the Association of Russian Educational Advisors, was particularly useful. For those institutions that are looking to expand recruitment into Russia, understanding how to enter the Russian market is critical. Through our blog we try to give you a deeper knowledge of various markets to help you begin or expand your recruitment efforts.

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As in other parts of the world there are two ways to connect with prospective Russian students, the agent approach and the public approach. Use of agents is quite common in Russia but there are also opportunities to recruit students without the use of agents, especially if that is necessary due to your institution's policy. If you choose to engage the services of a Russian agent, Ms. Ryzhova suggested contacting agents who are members of AREA (who have FELCA accreditation) or who have the IATC certificate which is earned from ICEF. Looking for AIRC certified agents would be another useful way of identifying agents with whom you might work. Relying on references from colleagues and other educational consultants can also be quite useful.

As you plan to participate in educational fairs, Ms. Ryzhova stressed the importance of careful research. There are numerous fairs in Moscow and St. Petersburg so she recommended participating in fairs in other large Russian cities. This is similar to the situation in China where most institutions feel the need to recruit in Beijing and Shanghai when there are so many undertapped markets in other large cities (enormous by US standards). While Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Beijing and Shanghai for that matter, shouldn't be ignored, it's important to realize that everyone, from around the world, not just the US, is recruiting in those well-known mega-cities. By recruiting in the less frequented areas, you'll be able to compete against fewer institutions and capture the interest of prospective students who have not been inundated with fairs and other events. You may also be better able to build your brand within these locations.

To best engage with Russian agents and prospective students and parents, you should show interest in and an understanding of Russian market pecularities. Ms. Ryzhova did not specify these pecularities but readers feel free to note them in the comments if you'd like.

Ms. Ryzhova noted that institutions should be thoughtful about their brochure content. I would expand her thought to include digital marketing as well. Content mistakes, whether about majors offered, application deadlines or requirements, are a major pitfall and something we should all work to eliminate. Useful, straightforward information is key in relating to international students. Ms. Ryzhova is not impressed with images in print or digital forms that do not show Russian students. If your goal is to recruit Russian students, it's a nice touch to show current or former Russian students in your marketing materials. Creating a landing page or microsite specifically for Russian recruitment with images of Russian students and presented in Russian would address this pitfall and go a long way towards promoting your institution.

Videos are a wonderful tool. Ms. Ryzhova suggested that the videos be short-- the first 30 seconds are key-- and should feature student testimonials rather than school facilities. This is consistent with what we learned in our own focus groups with international students. Prospective students want to see video footage of current students. It is the authenticity and honesty found in the testimonial that is most appealing to students.

Learning directly from educational agents or admission counselors who work in various regions provides a glimpse into the nuances of inernational recruitment around the world. We encourage you to refer to our earlier posts on Vietnam (International Student Recruitment in Vietnam: Part ITen Facts - International Student Recruitment in Vietnam: Part IIInternational Student Recruitment in Vietnam: Part III), India (International Student Recruitment in India) and China (International student recruitment - the Chinese High School System) for additional country specific information.

Recently the PIE Weekly chatted with Anna Ryzhova. Learn more here.