Interest in recruiting international students is growing among many institutions, for reasons ranging from reputational to financial. However, strategies translating intent into action are often devoid of research and insights. This lack of thorough examination before designing strategies often results in inefficient, expensive, and unsustainable enrollment strategies.
Often, institutions underestimate the importance of research in facilitating the understanding of international student decision-making processes in informing enrollment strategies. The key is to know more about international students throughout their enrollment process—who they are, how they choose institution, and what are their experiences.
Some institutions make the mistake of extrapolating national or regional trends, which may or may not apply in the context of their campuses. In other cases, school allows anecdotal evidence and stereotypical views on international students’ needs and behavior to drive the strategies. Finally, the strategy sometimes boils down to “outsourcing” to a third-party commission-based recruiter.
Expanding international student populations on university campuses while maintaining the goals of cost, quality, and diversity is a complex optimization problem. It requires assessment of institutional goals, priorities, and capacities; investigation of student needs, profiles, and experiences; and, finally, mapping institutional and individual needs through a comprehensive strategy.
In sum, it is important to “zoom-out” to look into big picture megatrends, but then to “zoom-in” as well, to see the applicability and relevance of these trends at the institutional level.
Click here to download my full article "INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ENROLLMENT: EVIDENCE-DRIVEN STRATEGIES" published in Boston College's International Higher Education.
Rahul Choudaha (author)
The issue of enhancing international student experiences and engaging them with the campus communities have been gaining more traction in US universities and colleges. A timely book entitled, "International Student Engagement Strategies for Creating Inclusive, Connected, and Purposeful Campus Environments" provides several examples and cases that can be adapted to diverse institutional contexts. - Rahul Choudaha
Chris R. Glass takes a social psychological approach to researching issues in American higher education, with an interest in how the presence of others affects educational outcomes such as achievement, motivation, and social development. He researches international students, academic work, and publicly engaged scholarship. You can learn more about his research and teaching on his website.
1. RC- Why is the issue of improving international student engagement and experiences is becoming important? How does your book addresses this need?
CG- It’s important because not all international students are the same; they arrive on-campus with a range of academic preparedness and financial resources. Our research shows these differences matter. A key part of developing a sustainable international enrollment strategy is creating more inclusive, connected, and purposeful campus environments for international students once they arrive. So, the focus of the book is on what universities are doing right. It draws on evidence from a national dataset, the Global Perspective Inventory, to explore 5000+ international students’ engagement in curricular and co-curricular experiences, their sense of community, and the nature of their interactions with faculty. Throughout the book, we also weave in first-person narrative experiences of international students to illustrate the real-life consequences of more- and less- purposeful institutional policies, practices, and programs.
2. RC- What are some of the examples of effective institutional strategies for creating inclusive environment for international students?
CG- Universities are doing some really innovative work that’s worth sharing. The book highlights campus case examples that readers can adapt to their own campus context:
* the StudyUSA program at Elon University; * internationalization of the curriculum at Florida International University;
* proactive case management for student success at Indiana University – Bloomington;
* the International House (I-House) at Northern Arizona University;
* the International Student Advisory Board at Old Dominion University;
* campus and community engagement initiatives at Valencia College; and
* faculty development efforts at Valparaiso University.
The institutions highlighted in this book are just a handful of a larger number of institutions that are doing excellent work.
We believe each institution has to develop its own approach to international student engagement. So, the book emphasizes reinforcing an institution’s existing strengths and capacities in the development of strategies that will enable it to create a more inclusive campus climate. It focuses on strategies to strengthen active collaboration with all departments and offices across the campus, with the larger community, and most important, with the international student community itself.
Readers can download the Introduction of the book for free. They can also use the promo code WES15 to get a 20% discount from Stylus Publishing (Offer expires 2/15/15).
What can Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon teach higher education leaders about international enrollment sustainable enrollment? A recent ranking by the Harvard Business Review identified Bezos as the Best-Performing CEO in the World based on long-term results. Bezos demonstrated his passion in a 1997 letter to Amazon shareholders when the company went public. “Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh trade-offs differently than some companies,” Bezos wrote.
The recession has fuelled short-termism among higher education institutions in terms of their student enrollment goals. The fiscal challenges, competitive landscape and complex markets, have increased the pressure to on colleges and universities to adopt quick fixes. These short-sighted strategies not only resulted in poor experiences for international students, as well as financial and reputational risks for the institutions involved.
In order to successfully recruit and retain international students, higher education institutions must move toward sustainable enrollment strategies that seek to maximize long-term value. These are the four questions every institution needs to ask itself in order to move from quick-fix international enrollment strategies to sustainable ones.
1. Are you focused on quantity at the expense of quality?
2. Are you reacting instead of proactively planning?
3. Are your efforts integrated with those of other campus stakeholders?
4. Are your decisions based on evidence?
International student enrolment is a complex, costly and competitive endeavor. It can become even more challenging when ill-informed, short-term and quick-fix approaches are used. In order to create successful, sustainable strategies, institutional leaders must work towards long-term solutions.
Is your institution making the right trade-offs as Bezos made to create sustainable, long-term international enrollment strategies?
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
Patrick Harker, president of the University of Delaware was interviewed based on his commentary "Making Sense of Higher Education’s Future: An Economics and Operations Perspective" published in Service Science. (On a side note, Service Science is an interdisciplinary field that aims at studying and improving service systems. My dissertation focused on developing a curriculum for a master's program in engineering and management. Service Science is supported by IBM.)
Harkin borrows from the principles of operations management and characteristics of services to argue for a change in the design and delivery of education. From operations management, we know that design of the service or product drives its performance, as it is influences the cost structures and delivery constraints. "Design determines how competitive it is in the marketplace. A great design delivers efﬁcient value to customers or clients."
Harkin argues that one of the limitations of design of education services is that we "we assume teaching is the same as learning" and with the increasing cost pressures and the emergence of online alternatives, this assumption is being called into question. "Too much variety in learning modalities disrupts our highly optimized, highly engineered teaching system."
The solution to squeeze cost out of this design is by changing the delivery model. Harkin asserts that "To better deliver our value proposition—to design a university that truly creates lifelong learners—will require a major change in both pedagogical concept and method. Instead of engineering teaching-efﬁcient factories, we need to engineer learning-efﬁcient ones."
We know from the nature of services that "customers/clients of the service are actively involved in its production." Thus, "focusing the design of such service delivery processes on making the customer highly efﬁcient is one of the keys to success. Translated to the university environment, this means a greater emphasis on learning, as opposed to teaching."
What student learns (curriculum) and how it is delivered is central to improving the learning processes and achieving the economies of scale. "The use of MOOCs or other online and interactive learning platforms seems worthy of consideration to deliver the basic courses in our curricula, which then allows us to free up faculty time to teach the advanced seminars, supervise undergraduate research projects, and provide the much-needed coaching and mentoring for our students."
I have previously written that the confluence of cost and funding pressures, technology-enabled learning innovations and new paradigms of quality and teaching, will further force universities to redefine their value. This will become a theme of increasing conversation among university leaders who are developing or assessing their internationalization strategies. More questions will be raised about making strategic choices between high cost, infrastructure heavy branch campuses vs. flexible, innovative and low cost engagement strategies through technology/online learning.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha (Author)
American Council on Education (ACE), which represents the presidents of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions, released an insightful issue of The Presidency focused on higher education enrollment. The Presidency is ACE's flagship magazine "written for and about college and university presidents and chancellors."
It includes feature articles like:
Given the demographic challenges and public funding cuts, for many institutions, international student enrollment is becoming indispensable. The article shares the findings from a previous ACE webinar on trends with international student mobility and its implications for enrollment. It shares the WES' student segmentation research framework which identifies the four different types of students and their corresponding different needs, priorities and expectations.
CEOs of four diverse universities share their enrollment challenges and experiences in overcoming them. For example, the chancellor of North Carolina Central University shares the importance of engaging students through creative and interactive virtual communication tools as the University received more than 44 percent of it 10,000 applications via mobile devices.
This article shares the overarching demographic trends and its implications on enrollment patterns. The shrinking traditional college population and expanding non-traditional (adult, part-time) students will have implications on the purpose of and expectations from college experience. For example, Maryland’s Stevenson University, shifted its focus from liberal arts to career education, which resulted in dramatic enrollment growth.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
Two recent research reports released in the UK on transnational education (TNE or cross-border education) provide extensive data and insights on latest trends, models, challenges and complexities with TNE.
First, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which distributes public money to universities and colleges in England, released a report entitled "Directions of travel: Transnational pathways into English higher education". Here is the link to download the report. This report aims to focus more on understanding pathways taken by students pursuing TNE in home country to programs in the UK.
It highlights several interesting points including the fact that over a third of the international entrants (students) enrolling in first degree programs (bachelor's degree or undergraduate program) in 2012-13 came through programs delivered overseas by UK education providers through TNE models.
Another fact is that TNE activities grew more among second and third tier institutions who are more severely affected by post-recession environment of funding cuts and stricter immigration policies. For example, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with higher quality students ( measured by student scores) have a lower proportion of transnational students: 16 per cent (3,200 entrants) in 2012-13, compared with 55 per cent (5,900 entrants) for HEIs with lower scores (p.5).
In terms of source countries, China and Malaysia dominate the market but exhibit very different characteristics. While majority of Chinese students came for longer programs (two to three years) and continued to stay for postgraduate (master's) programs. In contrast, most Malaysian TNE students transferred for shorter duration (less than one year) and did not continue for postgraduate programs.
Aggregate offshore numbers (TNE) and major countries of origin for transnational students 2012-13
Second, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, which focuses on business and economic growth, released a report entitled "Transnational education: value to the UK." The focus of this research is on quantifying the value in financial terms by understanding "the range, extent and value of [TNE] activity by UK institutions, and how this varies for each main delivery mode."
The report estimates that the revenue generated by the UK transnational education activities was to the tune of ~£500 million in 2012/13. The report confirms that "overseas distance learning, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, generates significantly more revenue than partnership arrangements, both in total and per student per annum. Postgraduate-level distance learning is the largest income stream, with MBA programmes in particular generating approximately £186 million in 2012/13 and other taught postgraduate programmes a further £92 million. Although Business and Management Masters programmes represented 18% of all active transnational education enrolments in 2012/13, they provided 56% of total transnational education revenues." (p.3).
Here are two other relevant charts indicated the scope and nature of TNE activities broken-up by top countries and level of education.
Top 11 countries for UK transnational education delivery ranked by number of programs (Prog) and enrollments (Enrol)
Level of study by transnational education type identified in the census, in terms of number (N) and percentage of programs (row %)
Transnational education strategies continue to be of interest to many stakeholders including higher education institutions and policy-makers. It is a complex and high-risk endeavor for HEIs. Long-term success and sustainability of these models will be dependent on making informed, evidence-driven choices. These two research reports provide comprehensive and timely data on TNE to stakeholders.
Previous related posts from the blog:
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
Five facts challenging leadership of US higher education in attracting international students
Nov 22, 2014
Here is the excerpt from my blog "Attracting International Students: Can American Higher Education Maintain its Leadership?" originally published on Huffington Post.
Studying in the U.S. is a dream of many international students. More than 75 percent of international students indicated motivation to "expand career and life opportunities" and "quality higher education options" as the top two reasons that motivated them to study in the U.S., according to a recent survey of nearly 5,000 international students by World Education Services.
With 886,052 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2013/14, the number of international students has increased by 55 percent from 2003/04, according Institute of International Education. It is easy to infer that U.S. has been hugely successful in attracting international students. However, what is lost in the positive growth are some of the acute challenges that can threaten American leadership in attracting and retaining global talent. Here are five facts about international students enrolled in American higher education:
1. Share of U.S. in international student enrollment has decreased
American higher education system is the leading destination for international students, according to OECD. However, post-9/11, destinations like the U.K. and Australia have attracted an increasing number of international students, which has resulted in a decline in market share for the U.S. - from nearly 23 percent in 2000, to 16 percent in 2012.
2. New destinations are further fueling the competition
Emerging markets are offering increasing opportunities for students who want to be part of their growth story and at the same time earn a foreign degree at a lower cost. For example, the number of Korean students going to China has been consistently increasing and at the same time it has been decreasing for the U.S.
3. U.S. institutions have the capacity to enroll more international students
International students account for only four percent of total enrollment in the U.S. higher education as compared to 18 percent in the UK and 19 percent in Australia, according to OECD. Given the size, scale and diversity of the U.S. higher education system, there remains untapped potential to attract more international students.
4. Many institutions are struggling to attract international students
Nearly two-thirds of international students in the U.S. are enrolled in just 300 universities. Given that the U.S. has 4,500 post-secondary degree granting institutions, this concentration implies challenges for rest of the institutions for a variety of controllable (e.g. lack of know-how to recruit and retain students) and uncontrollable reasons (e.g. location).
5. Others are struggling to diversify international student source countries
While overall number of internationals students has increased most of it was driven by growth from a few countries. For example, students from China now form nearly one-third of all international students in the U.S. and their growth have contributed nearly 60 percent of total growth in enrollment in 2013/14.
These five facts illustrate that maintaining U.S. leadership in attracting and retaining global talent will require a lot more to be done in an proactive, informed and collaborative at the policy and institutional levels.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha