How bespoke collaborations can boost your international recruitment

Working closely with the University of Glasgow, MABECS, Malaysia’s oldest recruitment agency, has helped position the university as an inviting and inspirational place for international students

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28 Apr 2022
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Devina Sivagurunathan speaks at Hashtag Higher Ed
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With over 90 reputable UK universities in its network, MABECS helps students gain admission to their dream UK university

Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia boasts a landmass that is about 35 per cent larger than that of the UK, but a population of little over 32 million. This population includes millions of school pupils who are starting to explore their university options. For many, the UK will be a strong consideration. In fact, only China contributes a larger proportion of Asian students to the UK higher education market than Malaysia.

During a talk at Times Higher Education’s HashtagHigherEd UK event, Devina Sivagurunathan, executive director at MABECS, Malaysia’s oldest recruitment agency, and Shonagh Maak, international recruitment manager at the University of Glasgow, discussed how marketing can be used to reach, engage with, and recruit international students.

“MABECS may be the oldest recruitment agency in Malaysia but over the years other agencies emerged and left us behind,” Sivagurunathan said. “In the process of revamping our offering, we realised the importance of staying uncomfortable, admitting what you don’t know, and investing in deep, foundational research.”

To ensure MABECS provided a more innovative proposition to students, the agency also shifted its focus to areas where it could have the most impact. “Work hard to understand the student’s point of view,” Sivagurunathan advised. “For example, we launched a podcast where parents and students can listen together. We also began interviewing alumni, talking about pre- and post-admission, and talking about mental health. Essentially, we started to focus on areas where we could have greater longer-term impact.”

“Looking at my institution, the University of Glasgow, Malaysia has been a safe market for some time,” Maak explained. “However, after March 2020, our recruitment activity suddenly ground to a halt due to the pandemic. Eventually, we went with MABECS’ proposal to solve this challenge because it was clear, creative and collaborative.”

The first campaign that MABECS launched in partnership with the University of Glasgow was titled, “World Changers Welcome” and positioned the university as an inviting and inspirational institution. It has led to its most diverse intake to date.

“For our 2022 campaign with MABECS, we focused on women in STEM,” Maak said. “This was a more focused campaign, involving greater levels of student input that allowed us to highlight some niche areas of the university.”

Looking back at the collaboration between the University of Glasgow and MABECS, it becomes clear that these sorts of partnerships may hold the key to recruiting international students. “I don’t want us to simply return to what we were doing before,” Maak said. “There is absolutely a place for face-to-face interaction, but we are also keen to continue leveraging bespoke collaborations in order to attract students from Malaysia and elsewhere.”

Find out more about MABECS.

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