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International Strategy in the Time of Coronavirus: Longer-Term Thinking

International Strategy in the Time of Coronavirus Longer-Term Thinking

In the past two weeks, since we posted our near-term thinking about student recruiting, enrollment, and the impact of the Coronavirus, a lot has happened. The advice we gave for institutions continues to hold. And now it is time to share some of our longer-term thinking.

Many of our readers are responsible for international student recruitment, enrollment, and student services. Other readers are in leadership roles with broader student enrollment responsibilities.

Intead has long been advocating for a diversified approach to enrollment growth beyond a focus on just international students -- advice on diversified approaches to enrollment strategy follows. Keep reading, and hang on to your hat…

A given: the virus represents a significant threat to international travel and the economy. This past week the APAIE 2020 conference scheduled for late March in Vancouver was postponed to 2021. Other education industry conferences have been cancelled as well. Some 200,000 international flights have been canceled since the virus outbreak. Academic administrators in Australia are taking the brunt of all the travel restrictions and challenges right now. The rest of us will be feeling it acutely this summer and fall and beyond.

As we mentioned two weeks ago, challenges do arise and when they do, we don’t get frustrated, we get focused. This is an important mindset in any scenario and especially important when your industry is suffering a significant shock.

A few quick assessment questions:

  • Do you have leaders who welcome big picture thinking?
  • Can you execute on your strategic plans?
  • Can you calculate the cost of putting your ideas into practice?
  • Can you provide market data to support your projected results?

Hopefully you answered, “Yes” to the first question (if not, you might be in the wrong place), and you think your answers to the next 3 questions are also, “Yes” (perhaps with the caveat that you’ll need some help to do it).

With this in mind, let’s dive into our longer-term thinking prompted by the latest threat to your student enrollment and revenue projections. Read on. 

Flexibility to Scale Activity and Expense Up and Down

In times of significant change, the flexible survive. The innovative excel.

Adaptability is a mindset. It is also something you can and should build into your operations.

Consider this: when revenue takes a hit, how hard is it to refocus limited resources on new growth opportunities? Does your internal political structure make that process, slow, painful, nearly impossible?

Of course it does! You work for an academic institution.

Nevertheless, there are strategic approaches to enrollment management and marketing that provide flexibility and a more nimble re-allocation of resources. One of those approaches is to have a talented team of experts available. When your internal team needs to move fast with real market insight, Intead’s team does the math, drafts the plans, calculates anticipated return, and makes you look good.

The value of outsource arrangements is that your internal team accesses expertise as needed. You are able to scale up quickly and back down again just as quickly. Allocated funds can be shifted rapidly, painlessly, strategically. We’ve been offering this level of support and helping clients adapt to changing markets for years.

Meeting Immediate Needs: Implementing Online Learning In 30 Days!

Need a quick fix for keeping your international students engaged when they can’t travel to your campus? Let’s talk about online education for a moment. This move, implemented by so many institutions over the past few years, is still not available across the board. As a near-term fix to accommodate a set of students unable to travel, wouldn't it be great if there were a low-cost, plug and play online education platform that can be in place in 30 days? …Well there is.

You know how to reach us when you are ready (info@intead.com).

Thinking about International Recruiting Strategy

International study will take a significant hit due to the virus. But make no mistake, it will rebound, and your institution needs to be present and prepared now and in the future to maintain its capacity and capability in this area. Internationalization is about more than just enrollment numbers. It is also about the ideals of shared global research and cross-cultural progress, remember?

The question no one can answer today is how far the virus will spread and the quarantine requirements that may result. As of this writing, the jury is still out on that. The holistic international student recruiting plans the Intead team has long advocated remain important:

  • Internal staffing and technology structure (CRM) to manage, track, and nurture leads,
  • Sophisticated use of digital marketing to reach targeted, segmented audiences,
  • A trusted global recruiting agent network, and
  • A powerful alumni network.

“No international travel” options for recruiting are suddenly all important (as if they weren’t before). Those institutions that have these elements in place are in the strongest position to ride out the storm. The recruiting agents and alumni are in key locations around the world and, as the situation changes and improves, these in-country resources will have tremendous value as you connect with students.

Digital marketing is a given, it brings in the leads – leads that have a real interest in your institution and your offerings. Focusing on international students from domestic private high schools and community colleges will become more competitive now. Best to get on that (click the links). We can help. 

Thinking About Broader Enrollment Strategy

The coronavirus shock reinforces the importance of several growth areas for your enrollment strategy, beyond changes to your international recruitment plans. We saw the writing on the wall a while ago regarding institutions’ slow adoption of these strategies, but post-virus, that writing is in big, red, capital letters. It’s time to get focused.

  1. Non-traditional Students represent the next wave of enrollment growth. And hanging up a "Welcome Non-Traditional Students!" sign isn't enough of a strategy. Our free eBook on non-traditional student recruitment is a good place to start (case studies from your peers). Our Intead Plus subscribers get even more non-traditional student insights, marketing plans, and student personas.

  2. Online Education Platforms (mentioned above) will enable your institution to better withstand travel and enrollment shocks (and coincidentally, are also a key differentiator when trying to appeal to non-traditional students). Offering flexible, location-independent tools to access course content will set you apart, if done well.

  3. Contingency Planning is key to surviving any significant shock to the system. Want a great example of one institution’s response to managing the ambiguous and challenging virus situation? Northeastern University has established a university-wide, cross-functional emergency task force that convenes its members every morning to monitor news developments and prepare their emergency response procedures. We recommend you click that link and take some notes. These folks know how to act and communicate.

It’s time to plan and act. We are experiencing challenges that, with some careful strategizing and implementation, can be overcome with institutional stability in mind.

Now more than ever, it’s time to think long-term, think big, and think different. And for goodness sake, get the help you need to evaluate, strategize and execute on those big ideas. 

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