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International Student Recruitment Tips for 2017

International Student Recruitment Tips

Jemma Davies, Postgraduate and International Marketing Manager, outlines her top 5 trends

Virtual Reality

This has been bubbling around the sector for a few years now and I think a lot of us were waiting for it to fail (like the QR codes everyone got excited about a while ago). But VR has only expanded with the gaming sector making extensive strides with the technology. I’ve seen some excellent examples of using virtual reality in higher education, with one university sending out Google cardboard to anyone who ever inquired with them.

It’s a great way to bring your campus to those who can’t be there in person, and from focus groups I’ve done with international students, it’s an asset that will manage international students expectations around the size of accommodation and the scale of your campus.

Social Media

I know what you’re thinking… Obviously! We’re all doing it. But, the pace of change in social media is why it’s in my top 5. According to a survey done in America, Snapchat grew as much in one year as Twitter has in 4 years combined, so it’s crucial to have this as an integral part of any international student recruitment strategy.

Beyond the university updates and advertising opportunities, universities are going further still to make offers to students through social media. It’s not enough to make student offers through the traditional channels, you need to stand out from the crowd and be active in the space where students are.

However, be careful not to cross the line of encroaching too much into their space and becoming invasive.

Print is making a comeback

It’s hard to believe with the exciting digital developments in the sector today, however, the millennial generation receive so much in a digital format that receiving anything printed is unusual. “Unusual” means you’ll stand out.

My experience with the printed approach is really positive; when used to invite students to an open day (in a previous role), 75% cited the postcard they received. In my current role, we’re hand writing postcards to all offer holders which leads me to my next top trend…

Be Personal. Be Human.

Making an emotional connection in a digital world is so hard to do. At BCU, we’re making every effort to build a dialogue with our prospective students. For example, when we meet an international student at a fair, we’ll invite them to a follow-up webinar with the same person they met to get any further questions answered.

In addition to the webinars and the postcards I mentioned earlier, we’ll engage with the student through the form of calling campaigns. I believe these little efforts make a big difference in international student recruitment – the student feels important and that they’ll be looked after.

Student-Led Content

Underpinning all of the trends I mention is how they are delivered and we’re using current students to do all the work for us. Well, not quite, but they are instrumental in the output. They do our social media posts, they host the webinars, and they make the phone calls. Research shows that international students aren’t 100% convinced with glossy prospectuses and beautiful videos that universities are typically producing. Of course they help, but they also see straight through it.


Students aren’t stupid. They will be aware that there is an element of control from the marketing team behind this content. We will be selecting the right student to champion the university and say the right things. But, for us at BCU, we’re working with a focus of “authenticity” to get our key messages across.

This is a guest article written by Jemma Davies whom we asked to share insights into the latest trends in international student recruitment.

– Jemma Davies, Postgraduate and International Marketing Manager at Birmingham City University

Want to learn more information to help you shape your student recruitment strategy in 2017?

Download our cost-free International Higher Education Report on marketing and recruitment trends.

International Higher Education Report: Student Trends 2018
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Last update: 09 Nov 2018

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