US and Canadian universities slow in responding to inquiries from prospective international students, says study

International students have different information needs but are universities responding those needs with accuracy and speed? 

A new report reveals that the US and Canadian universities, which currently enroll the largest share of international students worldwide, are slow in responding to international student’s information needs.

This study was conducted using a “mystery-shopping” data collection technique, wherein a team of international
students explored university websites. This allowed us to measure and compare the performance of the world’s and the US and Canadian top 500 universities in terms of online information and findability – as well as how well they replied to inquiries and followed up with potential students.

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The universities for this study were chosen based on their standing in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities. All universities in the top 100 of the most recent US News & World Report rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (the Shanghai ranking) were included in the research.

Universities in the US and Canada rank 5th when it came to communicating effectively with prospective international students, according to a report done by Study portals in collaboration with the British Council IELTS

When it came to providing basic information, US and Canadian universities are good at this as information is presented in a comprehensive format as well as most (67%) of university websites pass the Google Mobile Friendliness test.

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However, being user-friendly isn’t enough as most US and Canadian universities fail to address important programme-related information such as study accreditation, duration and start dates – information that are deemed necessary for prospective international students.

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When it came to responding to student inquiries, more than half (52%) of the US & Canada universities try their best to respond within 24 hours. This is a remarkable number, especially since for universities in other English-speaking countries, the number is lower (42% for Australia and New Zealand, and 33% for the UK and Ireland). However, most do not send follow-up emails within the day to students who have shown interest.

Do note that the insights in this report are based on the experiences of student’s mystery-shopping. Although the students have done their utmost to record their experiences in the most accurate way (through professional training and support), information may have been overlooked. Results should be interpreted as indicative.