Thriving, not surviving: six levers for recruitment resilience

Published 04/04/2024

UK higher education institutions are facing a tough year: visa regulation changes, a potential general election in the UK and in major study destinations overseas, economic instability and increasing global competition.

Since 2018, international student volumes to the UK have significantly outperformed overall growth worldwide. International student numbers are now 85,000 higher than projected. However, supply and demand drivers indicate that the UK may have grown too fast in recent years.

The UK government is increasingly adding measures to curb over-recruitment and UK universities are at risk of losing prospective students if visa policies change. One in four international students are less likely to consider the UK if visa rules change, and the Russell Group is not immune (QS Student Pulse Survey).

The number of issued offers peaked in 2023 with evidence to suggest this will fall back in 2024, placing institutions at risk of shifting international student flows. Though, UK higher education remains a beacon of excellence in international education and UK institutions have almost universally well-represented international student communities (QS World University Rankings 2024).

As global competition for international students intensifies, we’re working with our UK partners to build student recruitment resilience for the years ahead. Based on QS insights and data, UK universities have six levers to pull for an effective recruitment strategy.

1. Sustainable student volumes

Investing in your reputation can be an effective lever to help you recruit international students. Data shows that academic reputation is critical to effective recruitment strategies over a longer time frame and institutions who preserve their academic reputation also benefit from greater international student enrolments (QS World University Rankings & HESA).

2. Prioritise student outcomes

Career considerations are a vital component of the decision-making process for international students with 50% of prospective students globally prioritising career considerations when choosing a course (QS International Student Survey 2023).

By ensuring job market value for students and focusing on career connectivity, universities can build credible narratives when communicating their graduate outcomes to prospective students.

3. Dynamic market pricing

The cost of tuition is less important to candidates interested in the UK compared to those looking elsewhere (QS International Student Survey 2023), presenting an opportunity for UK institutions to be flexible with their pricing models.

However, as UK institutions diversify into South Asia and Africa and away from China and Europe, tuition affordability becomes a bigger barrier. This makes it more important to identify the right candidates for your institution.

4. Revenue diversification

The strength of the UK brand makes Trans-National Education (TNE) a viable opportunity for all UK institutions, regardless of ranking. Coventry University has over 21,000 TNE students (ranked 571st in the QS World University Rankings 2024).

With little correlation between performance in the rankings and TNE student recruitment, UK universities should consider building partnerships overseas.

5. Manage channel risks

On average, it takes 25 touchpoints (inbound and outbound) to engage and convert an international undergraduate student from first enquiry, across an average of 11 months.

Phone and email remain the highest converting channels but are the most resource heavy. Finding ways to deploy automation and efficiencies will be critical to improve the margins on cost per acquisition.

6. Deploy automation and AI

Nearly 98% of enquiries and 75% of offers will never convert for your institution. With increased pressure from leadership to do more with less, and work smarter not harder, it is imperative to evolve workflows and processes to find students more likely to enrol.

Successful initiatives we see include out-of-hours chat bots, AI-powered propensity modelling and data crunching to inform decisions quickly and in real time.

Through machine learning models, we’ve achieved remarkable transformation for our partner institutions. For one Scottish university, our use of machine learning helped facilitate up to 500 additional enrolments in September 2022, equating to £7.5 million in additional revenue.

Join our free webinar on Tuesday 16 April to learn more about the six-point plan. Sign up here.

Author bio: Kym Nguyen is Vice-President of Student Recruitment at QS Quacquarelli Symonds. She has held senior leadership roles in higher education service solutions for over a decade and is a strong advocate for putting data at the fingertips of clients, empowering them to make informed decisions and quickly respond to changing trends.

The post Thriving, not surviving: six levers for recruitment resilience appeared first on The PIE News.