US told to use data, not hunches, to recruit abroad

World Education Services report stresses diversity of applicants

October 10, 2013

Universities in the US must recognise the diversity of overseas students when formulating their international recruitment strategies, a report has recommended.

Institutions are currently relying on “hunches” about how to best recruit foreign students because they lack the relevant data with which to formulate more tailored approaches, says the study, Student Segmentation for an Effective International Enrollment Strategy.

The report, published on 8 October, was produced by World Education Services, a non-profit company that assesses the credentials of international students wishing to study in North America.

It builds on the company’s 2012 report Not All International Students Are the Same: Understanding Segments, Mapping Behavior, which found that many US institutions needed to update their recruitment strategies to take into account the increased use of social media, and the financial and academic credentials of applicants.

The new report warns that some US universities still view international students as a “homogeneous” group, which results in ineffective recruitment practices based largely on “assumptions and hunches” rather than systematic research and analysis. By paying more attention to the behaviour, habits and preferences of the different groups, institutions can increase the likelihood of successful outreach, it concludes.

“By understanding international student segments, higher education institutions can make informed strategic choices for recruiting and enrolling the best-fit students in a cost-effective manner,” it says.

Employing an “analytics-driven approach” to formulating international enrolment strategies would help universities to understand the diversity of profiles and the changing needs of international students, the report adds.

It urges institutions to “invest in and employ a systematic framework” for examining the expectations of potential students.

The strategy also notes that many universities’ recruiting practices are stuck in the “pre-Facebook” era, despite a survey of around 3,000 overseas students considering applying to US colleges, published as part of the report, revealing that one in five had used social media to obtain information about institutions.

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