Competition for Foreign Students Heats Up

Date posted: February 29, 2012

In the past, we’ve discussed how many North American schools have started using social media to target and recruit foreign students. Well, it now looks more and more like these schools will also have to compete with foreign colleges and universities for North American students.

According to new Statistics released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, a record number of Americans are studying at British universities. The data show that 15,555 Americans were pursuing full degrees at British universities in 2010-11. This represents 3.3 per cent increase on the previous year.

This isn’t a fluke either, as US applications from prospective US and Canadian students rose by almost 10 per cent (totaling 5,259 applicants) in 2012. Clearly, more and more students are looking to the UK for education.

The Times Higher Education explains that UK universities are appealing (particularly for US students) for their lower fees, shorter degrees and for the reputation of the British higher education system.

“A British degree is a valuable asset in the US job market,” Richard Everitt, deputy director of the British Council in the USA said in that report.  “Three-quarters of American employers consider UK degrees to be the same as or better than US degrees, according to new research carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the British Council,” he said.

However, the UK is not the only source of potential competition for North American PSE institutions. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission has recently indicated that Beijing plans on attracting over 180,000 exchange students by 2020. Should they accomplish this, it would represent an increase of 112% over current figures (81 universities in Beijing hosted exchange students from 184 nations in 2011). The city has released a plan to accomplish this massive recruitment increase,  with an emphasis on co-operation between schools in Beijing and abroad, and more summer and winter educational programs for international students.

So, while schools can do well to implement marketing initiatives to target foreign students, it’s still important to also focus on the home front. An extensive strategic social media plan can help your college or university emphasize its services, programs and community ties. The development of a visible social media presence, one that is properly set up and maintained, can also help create a thriving online community, with your school at the centre. Considering that a recent survey said that 83 percent of students would view the Facebook page of a school they were considering, this is fundamental.

What are you thoughts on international recruitment?