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Recruiting Intelligence

AIRC 2023 Reflections: Slides Now Available

 

As I headed to Phoenix for the AIRC 2023 conference, I wondered if the window had already closed for education institutions just now considering starting up with commission-based agents as an international student recruitment channel. Happy to tell you, that window has not closed at all.  

Yet, there is a lot to consider for those institutions just starting, and those having been at it for years. 

With the largest AIRC conference to-date (480 attendees), more than 200 first timers attended. Clearly there is demand to learn more about how effective university-agent partnerships work. And having been part of the AIRC community for 14 of their 15-year history, I can tell you that AIRC is one of the best places to learn about international student enrollment growth. 

From sample contracts to efficient agent engagement policies and practices, AIRC’s documentation and counsel are outstanding. This year, 7 members of the Intead team traveled to Phoenix to attend, in part because the learning opportunities and global connections at this conference are among the best in the industry. The other part was the opportunity to share our own expertise with the attendees at our full-day Global Marketing Workshop. That was a hoot. The Intead team just loves this stuff. 


We’ll be at AIEA in DC in about 6 weeks and participating in 3 great presentations: 

  • AI for enrollment management  
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in bureaucratic environments 
  • A discussion around International Student Points of Entry and a new international student-focused publication to be released later in 2024 

And of course, we will be presenting at NAFSA in New Orleans in late May. If you’d like to schedule time to chat over coffee instead of over Zoom, please be in touch (info@intead.com). 


At AIRC 2023, we gave our full-day Global Marketing Workshop with half a day devoted to an interactive lecture on the fundamentals of the strategy that drives a university’s tactical execution. After lunch, we dove into 1:1 consulting with participants to address the group’s self-identified greatest needs.  

It was fascinating to see how our workshop attendees debated and decided amongst themselves what the second half topics should be. Here’s where we ended up: 

  • I need a marketing budget, what do I do to get it approved? 
  • I have a marketing budget. Now what? 
  • Identifying and filling resource gaps 
  • Processes for nurturing and converting leads 
  • Creating authentic and powerful recruitment content 

Do these topics resonate for you? Be in touch and we can share what we know and how we have helped institutions like yours succeed.  

During the AIRC conference, Intead’s Sr. Digital Marketing Manager Iliana Joaquin joined Dr. David DiMaria, SIO at UMBC, for a practical discussion about how AI and ChatGPT are being used today in enrollment management and what we can realistically expect in the next year as AI-driven tools evolve. Short answer – it ain’t there yet, but it very likely will be in the next couple of years. So much more to talk about on this topic. There are definitely some gains that can be made in some areas, but the hype from the vendors is creating so much noise. Very frustrating.

Later at the conference, I ran a session with Vanessa Andrade about staffing challenges that so many institutions are facing today. The discussion about what skills and tasks to hire for and what to outsource was dynamic with so many additions from the folks in the room. This is what we absolutely love about the AIRC conference.

We are making these insightful presentations available to blog subscribers for free. Download them here.

Below we summarize 3 key take-aways from the conference. Please read on… 

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NACAC 2023 Reflections


Most inspiring feature of NACAC ‘23: Angel Perez, NACAC CEO, interviewing Maryland Governor Wes Moore and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in the opening Plenary for 7,000+ attendees. Representation matters.  

This conversation, in the way it was introduced by a power team of NACAC leaders and the dialogue that followed, demonstrates so very much about what we can do to move forward in the face of strong opposition. Bring our unrelenting energy and talent, grounded in the forthright presentation of ideas and ideals. Meet the challenge, whatever it may be, with unwavering, appreciative inquiry. Communicate the vision in ways everyone can understand. 

The conference that followed with all the sessions, networking, and the many interactions showed that NACAC has still got it. And the Baltimore Convention Center people flow worked better than many other large venues we’ve been to. Below we offer additional 2023 Enrollment Trend Observations and the slides from our presentation on the current state of the international enrollment. The data we share offers you an outstanding opportunity to benchmark your own institution against nearly 200 others. 


Opportunities to meet in person:

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • CIEE 76th Annual Conference in Paris, Nov 8-10, 2023 
  • PIE News Live in Boston, Nov 13-15, 2023 
  • AIRC Annual Conference – we’ll be offering our full day digital marketing workshop here in Phoenix, Dec 6-9, 2023 
  • ICEF North America Workshop in Miami, Dec 10-13, 2023 

Let us know if you’ll come share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com


Intead’s presentation at NACAC 2023 with Robert Summers from Middle Tennessee State University and Jennifer Wright from AIRC was, of course, in the furthest most possible session room, and the A/C in the Convention Center seemed to get stronger and stronger the further you got from the entrance. So, we cheered when we saw 70+ attendees actually show up on the distant shores of room 348 and suffer through our data display in near arctic conditions. We thank you all! 

I exaggerate, of course. But it was pretty darn cold. And the data we presented wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. It is here and available for download in the link at the end of this blog post. Read on… 

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q3 2023

For an industry that takes a lot of heat for being slow-moving, it sure feels like change is happening fast. You feel it, too, right? The pains of adjustment and growth. We’re learning to get comfortable getting uncomfortable. And we’re all here for it.

This blog, as you know, is one way you can keep up with important topics and industry trends that are propelling higher ed forward. This past quarter, for instance, we weighed in on pivotal topics like the current drivers of Chinese student mobility (hint: keep recruiting!), the integration of predictive modeling (new inescapable buzzword: AI), non-traditional student’s non-traditional needs, the use of agent aggregators, and more.

Of course, you were busy juggling all this progress with bottom line issues like student yield. So, if you didn’t get to all of our posts, we understand. Read on for a summary of the top news from Intead’s “Recruiting Intelligence” blog and click through on those topics that are meaningful to you now.


As we publish this week, NACAC 2023 just wrapped up in Baltimore. Some great opportunities to connect and learn, as always. And some growing and adjustment pains for NACAC as well as they figure out how to serve their members and regional leaders. Some natural frustration there, to be sure. We’ll share the slides from our presentation and more reflections on the gathering in a couple weeks.

Next Up: Join us in Paris Nov 8-10 at CIEE's 76th Annual Conference. Let us know if you'll be there (info@intead.com).


But here, and now, for many of you, we share some great reading while you are traveling the world in search of students while others are setting the recruitment plans in motion back in the office. Read on…

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Humanizing the Education Agent

Is it all about the enrollment numbers? Hitting “the number” is the driving force behind so much effort. So much pressure. A growing number of US universities now use education agents. And now, more universities are evaluating agent aggregators. Many have contracts in place with aggregators already and we hope those early adopters take a squinty-eyed, very close look at the results of those contracts.

How many applications? How many enrolled? And the quality of those students throughout the process. Are they succeeding academically?

If you are not familiar, check out our post and a recent (Dec 2022) lively ICEF panel discussion here. Hitting you in the face is a changing student landscape, the pressure to hit your enrollment number, and the agent aggregators who may be able to help, and quickly. Also in your face: the question of trust and integrity.

Some institutions have a hard enough time outsourcing their recruitment to individual agents, even those with third-party accreditation like AIRC. And beyond education agents who also use subagents, agent aggregators are farming out recruitment processes on a massive scale around the world using online platforms to scale the work rapidly. Questions arise as to how well any particular subagent is familiar with your institution, much less whether they are vetted for integrity.

Smart institutions want to know who’s representing their brand on their behalf. Fact: there’s just not enough transparency right now in this student recruitment system.

To be clear, we are in favor of agents. Human agents with whom you can connect directly, vet their talent, train, and guide. Intead has been a strategic partner to AIRC for more than a decade and our team fully supports ICEF’s efforts to bring enrollment leaders together with education agents from around the world. Both organizations push for clearly articulated best practices.

For more insights, check out our webinar with AIRC about the State of the Field. Our Intead Plus subscribers also have access to our ebook on University-Agent Partnership Trend Data and our Agent Management ebook all in our resource library available to all.

What we all know is that the system is less than perfect and students lose out when universities and agents are not doing their jobs with integrity.

Education agents, when brought into the fold as a partner, can be incredibly valuable. The key: partnerships, as in humans supporting other humans. 

Like any relationship, a meaningful partnership is built not bought. Is this even possible with the aggregator trend? Scale brings problems and when folks are lazy (and human beings tend to be), scale can bring disaster.

Look at the agent aggregator model from a simple business process point of view. If a company has 7,000 vetted partner sales offices, that company would need a robust credentialing team to monitor and control for quality. They would have a defined process for maintaining a certain quality of sales office staff hiring, training, work processes, and regular review of results delivered. Consider the level of effort hospitals go through to confirm the credentials and qualifications of their clinicians and physicians who have admitting privileges.

As you consider signing up with an agent aggregator, we highly recommend you ask tough questions about their staffing process, the vetting, and the monitoring. For institutions sharing their brand reputation with these outsource partners, it is buyer beware. Like super beware.

If you are not finding the quality control measures in place on the agent aggregator’s side, that means the quality control must be staffed on your side. Which then starts to beg the question: what are you paying for? Answer: the broad, global connection network. Keep in mind, that is something you can develop yourself in a way that is more targeted and more sustainable over the long term. Many institutions with thousands of international students started that process years ago and rely on their network today.

Not sure how to evaluate or where to start? Drop us a note.

Some of these aggregators are growing fast and coming on strong. They are shaking up the education market and making trusted agencies nervous. There are simply too many subagents operating in anonymity. Anonymity creates opportunities for questionable behavior (and we are being nice with our choice of words here).

 As we all broaden our scope to avoid the US domestic enrollment cliff and fold new target regions into our recruitment strategies, agents have an important role to play. Read on for 3 valuable tips on how to get the most out of this potentially beneficial partnership. Hint: it all comes back to developing trusting relationships with fellow, reliable humans.

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12 Ways To Develop Strategic Advantage For Enrollment

The student recruitment landscape has been in a state of flux that was forced upon all of us. Institutions have adapted in obvious ways (ramping up online education) and subtler ways that vary by institution. [Note: In Spring 2023, We updated this blog post from our previous summary of 10 international recruitment options to now incorporate 12 options]

Looking a bit over the horizon, we recognize that there is always the potential for unanticipated disruptions in addition to the challenging factors we see very clearly. As we consider what is next, the lever that has the greatest value is flexibility. The ability to ramp up or down with relative ease. The avoidance of plans that lock us into something long-term constricting our ability to adapt as circumstances change.

Building Flexibility Into the System

With that in mind, we offer up a quick comparison of 12 ways to develop strategic advantage for enrollment and their relative flexibility. In this case, we measure flexibility by two factors:

  • Time: Investment of administrative/staff time into making it happen and sustaining it
  • Money: Investment of capital (cash out) to make it happen

When we consider time, we also think about commitment – alliances and partnerships come with contracts that may or may not be easy to modify or escape from as factors on the ground change.

All in all, we see the largest value in those options that offer the greatest flexibility – least amount of effort (time), least amount of financial investment (money), and ability to ramp up or down on short notice (flexible contracts).

A little ways back, Brad Farnsworth, formerly at ACE and now running Fox Hollow Advisory, joined me to present at the CIEE Summit 2021. We discussed some of the options raised in this blog post and how they relate to institutional initiatives that deepen internationalization efforts.

Read on for more on those strategic advantages.

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q1 2023

That feeling when you recognize your passport stamps are indicators of future success – for you, and your future international students.

With all that 2023 travel and recruitment planning (so great to be back at it!), you may have missed some of our student recruitment analysis from Q1.

We’ll be in DC at the ACE annual conference in just a couple weeks and then we are planning some great things for NAFSA at the end of May. Can we connect with you at one of these events? Let us know.

We’ve summarized Q1 2023 right here to keep you up to speed. And we were heavy on the highly valuable downloadable resources this quarter. Go ahead, click where the insights grab you.

Read on...

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Productive Conflict in Action — Agent Aggregators: an ICEF Podcast

“The term you’re looking for isn’t ‘diversity of thought.’ It’s ‘productive conflict.’”

A thought-provoking post from Lily Zheng, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant. If you don’t follow her already, she’s one to look up.

Reading her words took me back to the Dec. 2022 ICEF conference in San Diego. I had the good fortune of sitting on a panel alongside Eddie West, assistant dean for international strategy and programs at San Diego State University; Sadiq Basha, the CEO of Edvoy; and Tony Lee, chief visionary officer for ICEF. The topic: agent aggregators.

It was a really great discussion. Open. Honest. And what Zheng may describe as “productive conflict.” I had a blast. And I think everyone in the room did, too. 90 minutes of panel discussion and audience engagement in a packed room and everyone stayed for the length of it. Not many looking at their phones either. Powerful and cutting edge conversation.

It’s exactly the kind of conversation you’d hope to have at ICEF. And I thank the leadership for including me. Because if you know me, I have strong opinions about the student journey and student success. The Intead team has been doing this stuff for a long time.

Please reach out if you'd like to chat over coffee at the AGB Conference in San Diego April 1.

If you’ve not been to the ICEF North America show, I highly recommend it. The value of it is different for institutions at different stages of their student recruitment journey. Definitely worth evaluating. Shoot us an email if you’d like more perspective on the value.

For those who were not in San Diego with us in December, you’re in luck. Read on for a link to the podcast of the agent aggregator discussion. I think you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

Read on

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A 2022 Must-Read -- AIEA's Handbook of International Higher Education

In the age of snack-size content, The Handbook of International Higher Education, 2nd Edition is for a hungrier reader.

This deep-dive resource, thoughtfully delivered to all of us by AIEA, provides exceptional context for many of the issues we are all facing now and offers a glimpse of what lies ahead.

The book explores the evolution of student mobility, commercialization of academia, higher ed-tech, the student experience, and more. Collectively we’ve spurred so much change since the handbook first published just a decade ago. Not to mention the issues that have changed us (immigration, social justice, COVID, technology).

Side note: if you’ll be attending the 2022 AIEA conference in New Orleans (Feb 20-23), be in touch and we’ll find time for a coffee and an exchange of ideas.

There’s little doubt that we are in the midst of profound transformation. How we move forward must be informed by where we’ve been. Our colleagues agree international education is vital to an increasingly interconnected world. Yet, even this bedrock is evolving. Once driven by societal cooperation, contribution, and service, there is an undeniable shift toward competition and marketization in higher education. Perceptions and approaches vary depending on where you are in the world and the primary sources of your institution’s funding (i.e., government vs. private).

Read on for our quick summary of what the handbook offers us from a student recruitment point of view. A piece of the higher ed puzzle that is evolving with quickening speed.

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Developing a Strategic Plan for International Student Recruitment

Before we dive into today's post, a quick note on some exciting upcoming opportunities to learn and connect.

In October, Intead will be taking a closer look at international student recruitment with two very different and powerful universities in two webinar events. We hope you can join us – we’ll leave time for Q&A!

  • October 5, NAFSA All-Region Summit: UMBC and Intead present “0-60 Internationalization” — Register HERE.
  • October 12, AIRC hosted Webinar: Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Intead present “Shifting Student Perspectives: Digital Marketing Now” — Free to AIRC members and $45 for non-members. Register HERE. (If your institution is not an AIRC member, hit us up for a code and we'll see about getting you past the velvet ropes.)

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Now, about strategic planning for international student enrollment: the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Not so with our adjustment to the pandemic? Or, maybe the old adage continues to hold true.

Digital is more important than ever to attract your future students. Yet personal touch and support through the application process (think recruiting agents) is critical to get prospective students from awareness to enrolled. All that was old is new again.

Standing the Test of Time

Back in 2015, our colleague Lisa Cynamon Mayers (some of you long-time Intead evangelists will remember the wisdom she shared with all of us) wrote a great post about developing a strategic plan for international student recruitment. She spoke with colleagues at SUNY, Southern New Hampshire University, and Full Sail University to specifically compare/contrast what they were finding cost-effective at the time. A few valuable charts emerged as part of the 2014 AIRC conference presentation enrollment leaders shared at that time.

Much of the strategic perspective is timeless in its value to our work in enrollment management. We can see from this look back what remains true despite the changing political winds, health factors, and visa/travel regulations. We’ve made a few 2021 observations alongside the insightful points in Lisa’s 2015 post below.

How does your strategic enrollment plan look when analyzed along these lines? Read on for our valuable compare/contrast perspective. 

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Step-by-Step Digital Marketing with Intead Plus

Today we’re taking you behind the scenes of some of our most valuable Intead Plus tools.

Our Digital Marketing Worksheets.

Yep, you read that correctly. Good, old-fashioned pen-to-paper worksheets. Although if you decide to fill them out on your computer, we promise we won’t tell. After all, learning is moving online these days, haven’t ya heard?

Looking to engage a new market? Develop a new content strategy and dissemination plan? Get your new hires thinking through the international student recruitment process?


Last Chance: For our colleagues leading private high schools we are offering a free webinar today at 3pm (Eastern) with TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) all about how student recruiting must be reimagined given the loss of recruitment travel. Register Here.


It’s all about the framework.

The Intead Digital Marketing Worksheets will guide you every step of the way forward — and ask the difficult questions. These are the worksheets we take folks through when we run our full-day global marketing workshops at AIRC and our International Student Recruitment Bootcamps. So, really helpful during those new recruitment season kickoff meetings.

All of the worksheets mentioned in today’s post are available to Intead Plus members and are tried and tested. Intead Plus members receive full access to an extensive (and exclusive) library of marketing intelligence materials (including our seminal eBook, 88 Ways to Recruit International Students, now an industry standard in its second edition), podcasts, webinars, and more, with new market research being released each year.

Read on for a sneak peek at these valuable resources to kickstart your global approach and your digital marketing strategy. Whether you’re just in the early stages of a new initiative or in the process of developing a digital campaign this content is going to be helpful. And if you want these tools at your fingertips 24/7, you know what to do.

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