INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Choosing a course, a country and an institution.
A new report called Beyond the data: Influencing international student decision making was released in May 2014 by Hobsons, a provider of student database services. The report is based on their International Student Survey and gives important insights into factors that international students consider for their study abroad options.
(The entire report, can be downloaded at http://go.hobsons.com/ISS2014/&s=wl )
It identifies 10 points institutions need to consider in marketing their courses to potential students. The summary below briefly discusses those points, and in particular shows how Novo Education Consulting has taken those points into consideration in developing the Choose New Zealand platform.
1. The most important factor is course, then country then institution.
In our website and marketing materials, our emphasis is on the courses our partner institutions offer – do we have a course that will “solve the problem” of that potential student? We also strongly promote New Zealand as a great destination for study, and work with our partners to show off their particular benefits.
2. Potential students have a keen sense of value-for-money.
Fees are the second-most important consideration for international students. Higher-than-average fees are acceptable if students can see the reason for them being higher, and the cost/benefit the course offers. In other words, institutions need to be clear on the total “product” they are offering, and relate that to the price.
3. A higher value is given to course/subject rankings than institutional ones.
This is why, for tertiary institutions, we are emphasising specialist courses, commonly at Level 7. For example many, many schools offer generic business qualifications, and simply cannot effectively promote the 47 registered providers of New Zealand Diploma in Business, or the 27 providers of National Diploma in Business. Even a Level 7 “Diploma in Business” is too generic to promote forcefully.
As the report says - do not underestimate the power of the “halo” effect.” A specialist course differentiates an institution from the “also rans.”
4. Perception of student satisfaction does not drive choice of institution.
Again, students are looking for a course that will positively affect their future life. Possibly they assume that an institution offering a desirable course will be of good quality and therefore satisfaction is not an issue of concern (and perhaps NZQA quality assurance gives some confidence in that.)
5. Graduate outcomes are a key factor in international students’ decision-making.
Students decision-making is long-term in orientation, and they are looking for a course that will have a positive effect on their future life. Promotion materials must show how your programmes are benefitting your graduates. (Statistics are good, and video testimonials are vital.) It follows then, that retaining contact with Alumni is very important.
6. Each institution has a role to play in marketing their country as a desirable destination.
The report emphasises that clearly articulating the benefits of studying in New Zealand, followed by specific location and institution benefits, will ensure that the student gets a complete lifestyle picture
7. Country-level messaging reinforcing welcome and safety of international students will support institutional marketing.
Education New Zealand has worked hard to promote New Zealand as a study destination, not only to raise awareness of our benefits internationally, but also in working with Immigration to make our policies and processes more welcoming. There is still much to do however, and Choose New Zealand will play a significant role in raising awareness of New Zealand, and its benefits.
8. Institutions must be clear on their brand value proposition for each course.
Institutions must clearly identify their brand value, and communicate their course benefits in alignment with their brand value – and very importantly ensure courses are living up to the overall promises of the institutional brand.
9. Students want to engage with institutions and their content through visual social media sites during the research phases of selecting an institution.
YouTube, Instagram and other sites are vital to reinforce impressions - remember “seeing is believing.” Choose New Zealand puts a lot of emphasis using social media, and on frequent updating of materials.
10. Giving out information, or an offer-of-place is not enough: students need to be nurtured from the information-gathering stage through to enquiry and then application.
Choose New Zealand will nurture enquirers to become applicants through engaging with them individually, mainly in their native language, and finding out their needs, and finding a solution. Our sophisticated CRM system will provide an immediate automated reply, and personal follow up within 24 hours during the working week.