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3P's Pandemic, Potential, Partnership

Discussion in 'Education Live' started by Arushi Patel, Nov 20, 2020 at 1:43 PM.

  1. Arushi Patel

    Arushi Patel New Member


    Whilst Higher Education in the UK battles the consequences of the pandemic, we continue to tackle the challenges that were already confronting us pre-virus: ever-increasing costs; greater global competition, especially from private HE providers; public funding and income uncertainties; the whole issue of Brexit and our future relationships with other countries; and subtly differing emphases on HE across the four home nations. Then the pandemic brought us the additional challenge of an abrupt shift to remote learning and multiple uncertainties about student mobility at home and abroad. New and old problems combine to mean that the pressure to recruit international students is now higher than at any period we can remember. So how can the risks of international recruitment during a global health crisis be managed? Is it still possible to recruit actively and plan for students implementing their overseas higher education plans within a framework of complex and constantly-changing travel restrictions?


    Some aspects remain constant, one of which is the UK’s enduring attractiveness as a study abroad destination for international students: despite predictions of a fall in application numbers due to the pandemic, universities are actually preparing themselves for a record number of enrolments from non-EU students, with a predicted 9% increase this academic year. In addition to the systemic features of a long, stable tradition of academic excellence, the English language, our network of globally accepted and renowned qualifications, and a reputation - in general at least - for individual safety and security, the recent reintroduction of a Post-Study Work Visa, allowing international students to work in the UK for up to two years, has restored one highly attractive aspect of studying in the UK which had been unavailable for a decade. Additionally, the negative messaging international students are receiving in some other destination countries can also work in the UK’s favour. So the UK could be poised to weather the exigencies of the pandemic more robustly than many destinations.


    There remain real barriers to individual institutional effort in deploying their tried and tested recruitment tactics in market. The difficulty of staff travel due to the pandemic restrictions across the whole of the UK means that institutions are going to need support and ever more creative solutions beyond using Zoom or Google Meets. One potential solution is to adopt more third-party service support in order to meet international student targets. Working in partnership with companies who have staff on the ground makes good business sense for institutions in terms of staff and applicant safety, but at the same time could threaten to increase costs just at the time when income is uncertain. That said, in-country services mitigate the risk of having to invest in a whole host of critical areas:

    • UK staff travel
    • Overseas real estate
    • Employing and managing overseas staff
    • Paying upfront costs for lead generation, application generation, and conversion without guaranteed student tuition fee income
    • Managing a big enough agent network to give enough scope to recruit to target
    Therefore the sweet spot must be to be able to find a dedicated in-country team delivering all that brand-building and market visibility, the entire prospective student customer journey, and added-value services such as application pre-screening and pre-departure briefings, who does not require payment until students have enrolled and the tuition fee has been collected. Ideally, at this unprecedented hour, a company willing to work on a “performance only” basis would be the panacea as the institution benefits from 100% of the service while spending 0% of their budget upfront.

    Working with and entrusting the pre-enrolment customer journey to a third-party, in-country provider of student recruitment services who only requires payment upon results must be the single most practical step a UK HEI could take at this point in order to manage the risks of the pandemic while maximising the potential for student recruitment from existing and new overseas markets, thus making achieving recruitment targets possible.
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