SinorbisInternational student recruitment and the importance of online marketing

International student recruitment and the importance of online marketing

How the reach of digital platforms and alumni influence can help European universities attract students from across the world

The shift to predominantly online student recruitment models presents an opportunity for European higher education institutions to reach wider markets.

At a Europe Universities Summit session, hosted by Times Higher Education in partnership with Sinorbis, the company’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Chu, spoke of some of the approaches universities could take to attract more international students.

Sinorbis offers digital marketing solutions to companies in the West looking to do business in China. Chu said it was crucial that institutions have a strong digital presence in the country if they wish to attract Chinese students. “Your digital presence in China is not going to work unless you build something dedicated for this market,” he said. “The first mistake that we see is that institutions don’t have a dedicated website in Chinese, optimised for this market.”

Gitte Bindzus Foldager, communications and marketing coordinator at Aarhus University, agreed. The quality of an institution’s digital presence matters. This, after all, might be the first point of contact any international student has. “Everything is so different to what we are used to in other markets,” Foldager said. “We actually had a Chinese website when we joined with Sinorbis, but we found that the loading time was really bad.”

The principles of online international student recruitment hold true for every country, but the strictly regulated internet in China poses unique challenges. You need an ICP license to host content in the country. Partnering with licensing agencies is one option, but Chu warned that once that business relationship is terminated, the agency – not the institution – will own the digital assets. Alternative channels are key.

“You need to reinvent them,” Chu said. “You need to go after the channels that are used in China, such as WeChat.” The goal was to create “a Facebook page on steroids”, which offered many digital touchpoints for Chinese students to interact with prospective study destinations overseas. Foldager agreed; this was the approach taken at Aarhus and it helped the university distinguish itself from competitors.

As is often the case in higher education, the most valuable resource an institution has is its alumni. Having its own students share advice and information can have a profound influence on student recruitment. “They feel it is more honest and more real,” Foldager said. The power of alumni influence cannot be understated. It can present a safe and welcoming international presence to prospective students.

Watch the session on demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

Find out more about Sinorbis.

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