What is International Strategic Enrolment Management and what does it do for you?

What is International Strategic Enrolment Management and what does it do for you?

Every day seems to bring a range of “tempting” offers into my e-mail inbox from suppliers of services to enhance our engagement with international students. Some recent examples include: “Are you looking to improve your Student Relationship Management Systems (SRM)?”; “New developments to support your international initiatives”; “Five ways to reach students at the right time”; “21st century solutions to top recruitment challenges”; “Improve the student experience = increase student acquisition”.

While we may wish to use the services of external organisations to support our work, first of all we want to be sure we understand what needs to be done – and what we can do for ourselves. Outsourcing does not mean that the work goes elsewhere: all of these services require considerable resource input (our time, as well as our money), so we need to know from the outset that we are focusing on the right things to achieve our desired results.

The only certainty about international student recruitment is uncertainty. We are operating in a fast-paced world, where flexibility and responsiveness to change are essential. In this context, strategic enrolment management (SEM) provides useful approaches and models for analysing and structuring our engagement to meet the challenges and expectations of the global higher education environment.

SEM is a comprehensive, institution-wide process which involves analysis of markets, supply and demand, marketing, recruitment as well as internal organisation matters, programme development, admissions processes and student support services. As a planning process SEM focuses on outward- and forward-looking activities in the context of a dynamic and competitive external environment. International strategic enrolment management (ISEM) applies the concepts associated with SEM, and gives them an international perspective: attracting, engaging, recruiting and supporting international students. ISEM addresses both short-term operational and administrative processes as well as longer-term planning, with a focus on management of all those functional areas which play a part in the international strategic agenda.

It is more difficult to apply SEM concepts in an international context: targets and objectives are less clearly-articulated and outcomes less easy to forecast. There is also the complexity of operating across a variety of markets (and selecting those markets) rather than domestically. Inevitably ISEM takes more time, resources and planning.

International recruitment is an inherently complex, competitive and potentially costly activity which is becoming increasingly integral to the strategy of many institutions, whether to support internationalisation, profile-raising or economic objectives – or often a combination of all of these.

Starting with analysis of individual institutional capabilities, priorities, objectives and targets, the world becomes a smaller, more clearly-defined operating environment. A strategic and informed approach, ISEM, will then help institutions to recognise their opportunities and maximise the effectiveness of their use of resources.

If you want to learn more about ISEM, make sure you sign up for the EAIE Academy course in Riga (20-22 April), Introduction to International Strategic Enrolment Management: keys to success, by 30 March. The course will introduce you to the art of ISEM and will help you develop a variety of skills essential for attracting, engaging, recruiting and supporting international students.