The perfect recipe for successful student recruitment

The perfect recipe for successful student recruitment

International student recruitment is no rocket science, but just like baking, it has to be done properly. We can’t just throw things we like into the batter and hope something delicious comes out: a couple of burgers, strawberry jam and sushi rolls mixed together will not likely add up to a tasty meal. However, this is how we often approach recruitment. Often the planning only goes so far as to decide which channels to use: let’s go to a few fairs, do some advertising and open up a Snapchat account, let’s GO!

If you are just entering the wonderful world of international student recruitment, your first job should be to build a foundation for making good decisions. That foundation consists of three parts:

1. Understanding and being able to analyse your recruitment funnel

2. Knowing which types of channels and activities work well in different parts of the funnel

3. Being able to calculate and compare return on investment (ROI) for possible recruitment activities so you can select the most cost efficient.

Understanding your recruitment funnel

Prospective students go through a lengthy decision-making process from the time they first start considering an international educational experience. Students start searching and evaluate what they find, then some of them will apply to one or more universities, and fewer still will receive an offer. Eventually, some of those who have received an offer will end up on your campus.

We call this a funnel because the number of people in the pipeline gets consistently smaller the closer they are to the end goal of starting a study programme at your university. You might have 1000 prospective students showing up on your website in their search and evaluation phases, while only 100 of them apply for admission and 16 of those eventually show up on campus.

If you know your results in each phase of the funnel, you also know exactly where you need to focus your attention and develop relevant activities. For example, if you have 1000 visitors to your website and only four apply, it is likely that your website needs some love. More advertising to draw even more people to your homepage won’t do you much good.

Knowing which types of channels and activities work well in different parts of the funnel

Part of this will always be gut feeling, but there are some general rules of thumb in each phase. For example:

  • If the problem is too few visitors on the website, improve your visibility in the channels prospective students use to search for options (e.g. Google, portals etc).
  • If your applicants reject an offer of admission, they likely have a better offer from somewhere else. They typically get 3-5 offers, and you need make sure that your offer is competitive and that you communicate it properly on your website and other channels.
  • Do you have lots of applicants but very few offers sent out? You probably reach the wrong prospective students then. Do you even know what your ‘right’ prospects look like and where they are? If not, then it’s time to go back and look into your market segmentation.

Be able to calculate and compare return on investment

Should you go to a fair or do Google ads? Should you do a webinar or an open day? Should you use portal A or B to advertise your offerings? These are the kinds of questions ROI calculations can help you to answer. Once you get the basics, it quickly becomes second nature to ask yourself, and calculate, “What’s my ROI on this?”

Help the Unseen University build a full cycle recruitment process

The imaginary Unseen University, founded in 1812 with the motto “Yes we should!”, has international ambitions. As part of its internationalisation efforts, each faculty has developed six international master’s programmes to be taught in English. However, since there has been virtually no coordinated marketing and recruitment efforts, none of these programmes has ever reached their enrolment targets. Join us at the 2019 EAIE Autumn Academy in Budapest to help Unseen University reach their recruitment goals and work towards achieving your own goals at your home institution!

Joachim Ekström
Dept. of Communication and External Relations, Uppsala University, SwedenJoachim is Head of Recruitment, Dept. of Communication and External Relations, at Uppsala University, Sweden.