In May 2022, the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF called the COVID-19 pandemic the “worst education crisis on record.” However, while the pandemic exposed the many facets of higher education that are not sustainable, including the rise of the student-consumer, and inflexible administrative and academic practices, it also presented international deans and recruiters with opportunities to increase their entrepreneurial and engagement profile by using innovative vision plans and recruitment practices.
The time has come for international deans and recruiters to think not just outside the box but rather without a box, and to move toward a university that is entrepreneurial in terms of future international recruitment and enrollment. It’s time to recruit students not just for the first year but for two, three, or four years and for the time after graduation.
There is data to support growth of international student mobility in the future, indicating more opportunities for HEIs to engage with their context at a global level. One report by the IMARC group, titled: Higher Education Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2022-202”, predicts that the global higher education market is expected to grow by more than 20 % in the next five years.
Innovation in international recruitment practices can only occur and succeed within the framework of an entrepreneurial university, a school that is committed to innovation and is willing to re-consider pre-COVID policies and procedures, and is led by visionary leaders who embrace change and have a vision for what their educational enterprise can offer students. The entrepreneurial university is led by administrators who think differently about how to best serve current and future students. The entrepreneurial university supports innovation throughout academic and administrative departments, and recognizes the necessity for international recruitment practices to take into consideration the priorities of the student-consumer.
Given an environment that supports innovation and entrepreneurship, how can international deans and recruiters tap into future potential student recruitment markets?
Five entrepreneurial recruiting suggestions
Add entrepreneurial vision plans to strategic planning
If you look up Google’s vision statement, it reads: “to provide access to the world’s information in one click”. Most colleges and universities have strategic plans outlining the steps needed to achieve specific recruitment and enrollment goals. But how many have vision plans build on the premises of entrepreneurship an engagement which define why and how they differ from other schools?
Strategic plans provide a road map to achieving vision plans. But without a vision, strategic planning cannot succeed. And without vision and strategic plans, recruitment strategies will struggle to succeed.
Change international committee membership
Most colleges and universities have an international committee, usually consisting of international recruiters, admission deans, study abroad advisors, and visa officers. But how many have, at the table, experts in political science and economics who can add information on the political and economic situations in each recruiting country? How are fluctuating currencies handled when planning next year’s recruitment countries? Andrew S. Horsfall, assistant dean of international programs at Syracuse University’s College of Law, has been tracking international exchange rates since 2014, and his research indicates that recruitment and pricing strategies should be guided, in part, by currency fluctuations.
Change recruiting strategies
Digital delivery and online recruiting, including metaversity recruiting, should be added to all international recruiting practices. The use of aggregators, digital recruitment service providers who have the ability to control the quality of agents and applicants, should be part of the recruitment mix.
The student-consumers, post-COVID, have made it clear that they want fast and effective responses to inquiries and applications. In the most recent QS International Student Survey, 84% of prospective students said they expected to receive a complete and personal response to an enquiry within a week. And 45% want to know whether their application has been accepted within a week.
International deans and recruiters should also consider cohort marketing, or recruiting groups of undergraduate and graduate students based on research and prior articulation and collaborative agreements.
Finally, all recruiting strategies should take into consideration changes in geopolitical alliances and tensions.
Change admission packet – more and better information
Most colleges and universities have a standard amount of information mailed to all accepted applicants. What if the admission packet, along with that information, included the following?:
• Name of academic advisor and, if appropriate, financial aid advisor
• Approximate cost to degree completion
• Sequence of courses necessary to graduate in two, three or four years and horizontal skill development such as entrepreneurship
• Offer of engagement opportunities such as List of graduate school and job placements of recent graduates and List of area alumni
• Offer of entrepreneurial services
Including this information in admission packets would provide accepted applicants with more robust information in order to make an informed decision. How many competitor schools are providing this information? This is one way entrepreneurial schools can distinguish themselves.
Consider affordability, sustainability and much more
A report published in ICEF Monitor, revealed that post-COVID, more families are investigating affordable study abroad destinations. Three-quarters of the education agents reported that the cost of study and living is now one of the most important factors when selecting a school. And the ability to work during enrollment is another important factor in deciding where to enroll, therefore engagement opportunities with external stakeholders should be a mission of the university.
Another consideration in student search is a school’s defined sustainable goals and carbon footprint. UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini, cites UNESCO’s ‘Roadmap to 2030’ as a call for change, transformation and for shifts in mindsets and behavior.
The five suggestions outlined in this paper are by no means complete nor do the facts listed obscure the obvious: the flaws in higher education’s delivery and pricing, pre-COVID 19 and the rise of the student-consumer, post-COVID. Students have options that did not exist prior to the pandemic. They can study anywhere, anytime and pay less than they did pre-COVID. They will enroll in universities that also transform themselves to meet their educational needs, are affordable, believe in sustainability, and graduate students who have the skills necessary either to enroll in graduate school or secure meaningful employment after graduation. This transformation towards engagement and entrepreneurship should occur at every level, including recruitment practices.
The recommendations listed in this article are meant to inspire international deans and recruiters to create, write and implement entrepreneurial and engaged vision and strategic recruitment plans that meet this moment of change in higher education.
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