Value for Money for International Students is Critical for Sustainable Enrollment Strategies

Global competition for international students is becoming intense. Institutional strategies that align with student segments and deliver on the promise of value for money will become the key differentiators of institutional success. This is the key message of my article "Recalibrating value for money for international students" published in University World News. Given below is an excerpt.

return on investment for foreign students studying abroad universities

How do we define value for money? The relatively simple and universal definition of “value for money” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “reasonableness of cost of something in view of its perceived quality”.

However, “value for money” is a contested and complicated concept in the context of higher education as the perspectives of various stakeholders – students, faculty, administrators and policy-makers – differ substantially. If defining the value for money of higher education is difficult, then demonstrating value for money is an even bigger challenge.

However, students are becoming aware of the changing policy environment of higher tuition fees and lower government funding. In this competitive environment, universities must not only define their value for money but also map it to the best-fit segment of international students.

International student decisions to study abroad are influenced by several variables at the individual, institutional and country level. However, international students can be placed on a spectrum of varying abilities and expectations, with ‘Bargain-hunters’ on one end and ‘Experience-seekers’ on the other end.

Bargain-hunters are driven by how to minimise costs (tuition and living expenses) and maximise financial returns in terms of work opportunities during and after the programme. They are less constrained by a city’s location as long as it offers lower costs or higher prospects of work. This segment is highly sensitive to changes in tuition fees and immigration policies. Bargain-hunters are the segment of students who are highly affected by the unfavourable immigration policies of the Third Wave.

Experience-seekers are motivated by the lived experiences and social recognition that comes with studying abroad. As a result, location and safety matter to them. They are less sensitive to cost and immigration policies as compared to Bargain-hunters. Many Experience-seekers intend to go back to their home country and do not necessarily want to work in the destination country.

While not all international students can be defined in this framework, it does provide a way to conceptualise the diversity of the international student body and how institutional strategies must adapt to them to offer maximum value for money.

Global competition for international students is becoming intense. Yet, innovation and adoption of institutional strategies that align with student segments and deliver on the promise of value for money will become the key differentiators of institutional success.

Related links:
The future of international student mobility
Three waves of international student mobility
Demonstrating value for money
Value for money: the student perspective