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Recruiting Intelligence

When Traditional Student Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 2

All eyes on China is not a winning international student recruitment strategy today. Not that it ever was. The stronger approach: diversifying the pool of countries your institution pulls from. We’ve been saying this for more than a decade. Institutional budget allocations have not always heeded the advice.

We get it. Student volume and confidence in achieving enrollment targets have driven academic CFOs and others who manage risk to take the more conservative path. Over the past decade+, our clients are typically those interested in pushing beyond the conservative global recruitment path. They are the institutions that recognize the value of building a broad range of relationships to feed their student enrollment.

This diversification, both domestic and international, provides for more long-term stability. That strategy is becoming far more attractive to many more institutions today. And that strategy takes time and investment to execute well, to build a reliable and diverse supply chain as it were.

Last week we wrote about the three key things to look for in markets ripe for international student recruitment: a growing youth population, rising incomes, and employment opportunities for returning graduates. And a growing list of countries in Africa is meeting the short(er) list for institutions seeking international students. It may be time you take a closer look at this region.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in this 2-part series (in case you missed it). Today we offer student recruitment insights for Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania.

And for more African student recruitment insights from our pre-Covid research (still highly relevant as you develop your recruitment plans), check out:

With a nod to last week’s post (with many useful links for the careful planner that we know you are), important to note that there is competition for these students from attractive and less expensive institutions in Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries.

In our discussion of 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on for tips on recruiting students from Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania

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When Traditional Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 1

The best markets for international student recruitment have three key things going for them:

  • a growing youth population, 
  • rising incomes, and
  • employment opportunities for returning graduates.

The African continent has a number of under-utilized recruitment hubs that boast all three.

The three bullet points above are useful generic perspective applicable to pretty much any institution – higher ed and private high schools. But what about your specific institution?

How do you make headway in the new(ish) student recruitment markets that African countries represent? Will your differentiators resonate there? Which channels will reach your ideal student segments?

Perhaps start with some of our analysis with helpful, still valid insights compiled prior to Covid. You’ll appreciate the discussion of recruiting agents, creative partnerships, and other valuable recruiting channels:

To be clear, African countries, as sources of international students will not replace the flow of students coming out of China. So, if your enrollment goals are all about achieving target numbers and not about diversifying your campus, you may hesitate to invest here.

And yet, the thing about hitting your enrollment goals is that you win by building strong relationships and pipelines. Clearly, China and India have the volume and the larger accessible market size, but your institution needs student recruitment opportunities where you can be truly competitive. And diversifying your campus has rewards that speak directly to your institution’s broader teaching mission. Seeking less common sources of international students is one way you do all that.

An increasing number of institutions are approaching the Intead team to explore further afield. A welcome and important mindset. While regular readers of our blog know we continue to share perspectives on, and implement recruitment strategies for, traditional student sources (China, India, Vietnam, Brazil, S. Korea). With more institutions seeking new markets, it is a good time to revisit the approach to Africa as a valuable source.

Obviously, the pandemic slowed the inflow of international students from all parts of the globe, and Africa is no exception. But now, as pandemic restrictions ebb and economies recover, smart institutions are bringing Africa back into their awareness as a prime source of engaged, qualified students.

In fact, more than a few African countries have achieved the World Bank’s “middle economy” status and are expanding their leadership in sectors such as agriculture, oil and gas, and tech. These industries offer promising careers but tend to demand higher education degrees. Foreign degrees draw attention to job candidate resumes. Many US institutions offer long-established degrees and certifications that African higher education institutions are still developing.

Important to note that there is competition for these students. While the US has a strong draw (the US brand and all that), Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries have been courting students from African countries for a while with less expensive degrees than are typically found in the US.

Also interesting to note that over the past 5 years, both the US and China have each invested in the African continent at around $40B annually. Much of the investment has gone toward construction (roads/transportation) and mining.

According to The Brookings Institute, “China’s influence goes beyond the trade relationship: It is also the top investor in infrastructure, and now is the first destination of English-speaking African students, outperforming the U.S. and the U.K.” (source cited below).

In our 2-part blog post about 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully, through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on to evaluate some of the strategies that we have found effective for recruiting students from the African continent.

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For Chinese Students, Authenticity Counts

Let’s talk about specific tactics for mid- to lower-funnel marketing communications. And specifically, what do Chinese students really want? And how are they making their decisions? For those in our line of work, it’s on everyone’s minds right now. A lot.

On average, international students are receiving 3-5 admissions letters. What they do next to select their top institution has everything to do with the information they have available to them. This is no time for institutions to let go of the recruitment communications.

With all of the turmoil and enrollment fluctuation with Chinese students in the US, when we publish on this topic we see a significant uptick in our blog and site traffic. What to do about Chinese student enrollment is a popular topic. See our latest relevant insights here:

While recent declines in Chinese enrollment in the US have a range of reasons (slow visa processing, political tensions, Covid response disparities, US violence, economic turmoil), the past decade has also brought increasing global competition for Chinese students. The intensity has only grown in the past few years.

Look, beyond all the headlines about this decline in Chinese student changes of heart, we are willing and able to predict the future. Similar to Warren Buffet’s prognostications about the stock market (it will go up, but we don’t know exactly when it will go up), we are extremely confident that China as a source of international students will not struggle forever. Over time, it will return in strength. In the meantime, it continues to be a dominant source among all international sources.

The institutions ready to take advantage of global recruiting opportunities will be the winners. That’s why when we ran across a handful of new student handbooks written by current US-based Chinese students for prospective Chinese students, we wanted to learn more.

Sure, the handbook idea is nothing new. What really intrigued us was the fact that so many institutions don’t actually have this tool in play. Seriously? We all know how meaningful personalized, authentic, and tailored communication is to international students. Going the extra mile takes your recruitment and retention efforts so much further.

Truly, it’s the small authentic gestures that count.

So we did a small thing. We took a minute to review the handbooks (they are written in Chinese for incoming Chinese students). It’s always interesting to see what current international students think is important for the newbies. And it’s important you know, too.

Read on to learn what these handbooks have to say and how they are being used.

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Your Most Influential Recruiter Is Right in Front of You

A bustling campus: backpacks slung over shoulders, coffee cups and water bottles in hand. These thoughtful, exuberant, media-savvy students filling your hallways, classrooms, and online portals, THESE are your most powerful recruiting influencers.

Last month, Intead teamed up with Unibuddy and Northeastern University to present our research on Peer-to-Peer platforms as student recruitment tools at the AIRC Conference. The discussion was lively. So many questions and ideas emerged. And now that research, and the guidance it offers, is available to you.

Consider this: When deciding where to apply for university,

  • 57% of students said online conversations with an institution’s student ambassador were their most helpful resource. 
  • 47% said friends and family were their most helpful resource.

Read that again.

Current students were more important than friends and family.

First-hand student experiences established trust and that came through loud and clear in these conversations. This student connection is SO significant to the recruitment process.

Read on for more insights and to download the full report…

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LinkedIn University Finder: Advantage For Lesser Known Schools

In last week's post, we gave you an international student's user perspective of LinkedIn’s University Finder tool (thank you for all the positive feedback by the way). 

For those of you wanting more digital marketing perspective... Join us in Miami at the ICEF pre-conference Global Marketing Seminar for Education Institutions. We hope to see you there.

This week, we check back in with our international marine engineer, Steven, to see what is driving his decisions about graduate study. Steven is looking for international and US universities with a master’s program in engineering and project management. His LinkedIn search yielded an intriguing list of institutions. In this post, we share Steven’s thoughts on the functionality of the tool and the effectiveness of the universities’ LinkedIn pages that he visited.

Bottom Line: International students seeking to study abroad have far too many choices and need tools like LinkedIn to narrow the field and focus their decision making. Your institution needs to be represented well here to take advantage of the free marketing LinkedIn is providing. Little known universities stand to gain the most.

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Great Content Attracts International Students

You’ve probably heard this: Content is King. In the digital marketing age, this line is talking about the power of great content to draw customers. For example, if the Netflix library shows you the type of movies you like, you are likely to subscribe to the service.

And speaking of subscribers, a note to all of our loyal readers: Intead’s Recruiting Intelligence Blog will take its annual summer hiatus and be back to your inbox the first week of September. We hope you have a great summer.

Now, our intrepid blogger Emily shares her take on how great content can be created and used to attract international students. Be sure to wear your creativity cap as you read. What engaging, sharable content can your institution produce?

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