UCAS Applications To Be Anonymous

To prevent unconscious bias against candidates from minority groups, Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed plans to remove names from university applications forms starting 2017.

In response to this UCAS chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said it would consult with degree-awarding institutions on name-blind applications as this would impact applications from black and ethnic minority students.


ucas acceptance rate

Read more

Student Recruitment Funnel: Focus On Prospects You Have For Better Results

students happy

(Source: bosnahersekuniversitesi.net)

The number of students pursuing international study for higher education are at an all-time for popular study countries like US, UK and Australia. Much of this growth has been attributed to the increase in overall demand, led primarily by students from emerging countries like China, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Another factor contributing to this trend is the Internet, by making it easier for students to file queries – through forms, social media or email – to multiple schools at once. Moreover, centralized application systems and online applications gives additional convenience and ease for prospects to file a wide field of applications.

The web is home a tremendous amount of information about pursuing education; in turn, this has resulted in a new prospect category known as the “stealth applicant.” These are applicants who remain anonymous until the point of application and hence remain out of the tracking and communications processes of schools. Some even go as far as not to opt in to formal enquiries hence preventing schools from contacting them. Others are more comfortable to find the information they need online prior to submitting their application.

As you can imagine, these factors are a big headache and troubling concern for educational institutions as they struggle to acquire, qualify and manage prospect students. In addition, these factors are seemingly pointing to lower yield rates as well – the number of enquiries that convert to paying students.

Read more

Five Tips For University Marketers As Student Applications Decline

As University applications across the UK decline by 12% according to reports in the media, Nigel Pipkin, director for Birmingham marketing agency Seal, which has experience of working within the education sector, offers some advice for University marketers on how they can attempt to arrest the downturn.

What marketers within Universities should be doing to turn around the decline in applications for higher education?

It wasn’t so long ago stories abounded that there were too many students chasing too few places at university.

With fees trebling it’s provided a massive shock to the system but what’s happening is likely to be a jolt not a knock-out blow. When the dust settles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that most universities have sufficient students for the number of places available.

With any price increase you expect a backlash and factor that into your pricing strategy. Universities will surely have done that, so we shouldn’t feel too sorry for them.

With money tight people are inevitably asking more questions and taking more time to make what is a key decision. So the first piece of advice is don’t panic. Expect a wave of late applications, a sort of lastminute-uni.com.

The second is get your customer services right. My experience is universities aren’t the most accessible when you want quick answers to questions. It’s easy to fall into complacency when you’ve people clamouring to join. So be available at weekends when families are together. Respond quickly and you’ll win the day.

Debt is the big, big issue. Don’t shy away from it. University open days are good at flogging courses but a poll of graduates here at Seal showed money advice was nil. At the next open day set up a dayglow tepee on the campus lawn and get Big Chief Calculator to spell out in simple terms that the long term financial benefits are there.

Number four. As a nation, we’re quick to laud entrepreneurs like Richard Branson who have turned themselves into a leading brand without a degree. Rightly so. But what about the successful people who graduated? Get them championing the cause. Stop being embarrassed about it.

And finally, sell yourselves abroad. So many markets these days are global – finance, technology, automotive, aerospace, oil – so why not British universities, which are widely acknowledged as some of the best in the world?”

How To Create An International Student Recruitment Action Plan

Worldwide student mobility has seen steady growth over the past several years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon – in fact, OECD’s Education at a Glance 2013 report projects international mobility to nearly double to 8.5 million students by 2025. The result has been intensifying competition, particularly among English-speaking colleges and universities, seeking the rewards of increasing and diversifying their international student populations. In this time of budget cuts and slowing domestic enrollment, internationalization has transformed from desirable bonus into institutional imperative, but achieving such goals is no straightforward task and resource efficiency is increasingly a necessity. – See more at: http://www.higher-education-marketing.com/blog/international-student-action-plan#sthash.P0cM2sRh.dpuf

While many admissions professionals continue to travel to distant corners of the world for uncertain returns, there is a growing understanding that emerging digital marketing techniques can deliver more effective results for far less of an investment. By embracing these new mediums, colleges can better control their communications and branding, reducing reliance on external agents while developing more flexible and customized management of the admissions process. Implementing these types of initiatives successfully requires a willingness to adapt to rapidly shifting student engagement expectations, understanding not only the continuous advances in available technological tools but the cultural nuances of various target markets. No small challenge!

Going global takes more than just talking the talk – many higher ed institutions passively court foreign students with little more than an international page on their website and perhaps some “one-size-fits-all” attempts at social media or PPC ads in other markets. While this might be enough for super-brands like Harvard, the vast majority of colleges and universities with international enrollment increases cite active recruitment as the reason for their success.

Creating a Culture of Internationalization

Making internationalization a true priority means taking a longer term, bigger picture view of its role in enhancing your institution. More and more universities are publicly declaring internationalization a key component of future success, embedded in strategic plans or elaborated upon in high level documents.

Example: The University of Calgary highlights internationalization as a “key strategic priority” in their pursuit of becoming “a global intellectual hub”, according to their recent International Strategy document. The 24-page report highlights their commitment to these goals by illustrating current activity, tangible targets and strategic goals, namely:

Increase diversity of our campus communities Improve global and cross-cultural competencies within our campus communities Enhance opportunities for international collaborations and partnerships in research and education Leverage our unique areas of expertise to engage in international development

These kinds of documents serve to galvanize key decision makers while providing a shared reference for different stakeholder groups to further the school’s mission.

Expanding strategic international partnerships, research collaborations, exchange and study abroad programs, and alumni relations can greatly enhance a university’s educational capabilities, student opportunities and participation, brand reputation and much more. Colleges can strive to improve the experiences of incoming international students, thus growing valuable word-of-mouth referrals among other benefits, by broadening orientation services and retention tactics. Promoting internationalization means providing the pathways for growth, including resources for increasingly culturally diverse students (and staff) on campus to learn from each other.

These are all long-term projects demanding visionary leadership – but what can schools do right now for more immediate results?

Feeling out Markets with Paid Search

International strategic enrollment management begins with establishing and communicating clear goals for the number and types of students desired, leveraging enrollment data to forecast trends and develop realistic targets. Focus initial efforts by choosing markets with the best potential for your institution – likely typical leading countries of origin (China, India, South Korea) but sometimes smaller nations that have an established presence at your school. Also consider focusing marketing efforts according to preferred academic discipline and degree type.

Unique cultural and language considerations add an extra layer of complexity when going global – choosing appropriate keywords is not simply a matter of direct translation. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a tremendously cost-effective method of revealing insights about potential markets, since expense is only incurred when prospects actually click your link. It is a great way to learn which search terms are popular and which ads better convert, letting you see which combinations of keywords and messaging are more effective in a particular market. For an in-depth look at PPC for international student recruitment, our previous blog on the subject is an excellent starting point.

Google AdWords has a free Keyword Planner tool for searching keyword and ad group ideas, but keep in mind that Google isn’t the most popular search engine in several important source countries. Before launching a PPC campaign, it is essential that ad copy fits the requirements for the applicable platform, landing pages have been created on your website and analytics tracking has been established. Landing pages must meet expectations created by the ad copy and concisely convince prospects to take the next steps, such as completing an application or “request information” form.

International Search and Mobile Trends

Recent data analysis from Google shows a continuous increase in education-related search volumes, confirming that the student decision journey has indeed moved online. Non-branded search queries by prospective students uncertain of which school they wish to attend are rising at a faster rate. Google’s internal tracking revealed that queries including geo-specific keywords generated strong click-through conversions. Increasing specificity by promoting particular degree and academic programs in specific locations is recommended for better results.

Of course, going mobile has been another top priority for higher education marketing. Optimizing for mobile-device usage is even more important for international recruitment, since a majority of users in several source countries are mobile-exclusive. A negative mobile experience on your website is enough for 35% of prospects to move on to the next potential college on their list, according to internal Google research. Make sure you have your most important bases covered when developing for task-driven mobile searchers – top selling points of your school, programs and admission info, videos and application forms are among the most popular features to include. Shorter forms are far more likely to convert. International students will also want to know things like financial and study permit details.

Internationalizing Websites

One of the biggest challenges of internationalization is developing your website to appeal to multiple markets and languages. Although many options will technically work, using a top level folder on the same domain as your other content (rather than a subdomain or microsite) lets you develop a customized experience with fully translated paths while enhancing your SEO. Keep in mind that search engines won’t give your pages the same value if they think it’s only an auto-translation (or if content is out of date), and to avoid the issue of duplicate content you must create the proper links between translated content to alert them if it’s a translation. Alternate hreflang link tags let search engines know how content should be prioritized.

Right-to-left languages like Arabic require the appropriate fonts and additional “rtl” tags at the top level block element. Content using Chinese characters and other logographic languages presents the additional challenge of modifying the page layout and structure to accommodate the unique condensed properties. While providing content in multiple languages can be complex, it can go a long way to effectively communicating with foreign prospective students and, perhaps even more so, their parents. Ensure that users can easily navigate between available translations – the clearest way is to prominently display the language name written in that language at the top of the webpage. Even if you have multiple international websites, avoid auto-directing based on a user’s IP address as it will irritate prospects and inhibit Google’s crawlers from discovering your sites.

Content and Social Media Considerations

When developing any content for international audiences, it is vital to understand your target market as much as possible, including the local language (in the way that prospects actually speak), cultural norms and expectations, and priorities in education search. Try using student assistants to help develop or translate content and always test with various groups to ensure that messaging is clear.

Social media can be a valuable tool for discovering more about prospect groups through online conversations, informal surveys and the types of posts that receive greater interaction. Communication on these networks can serve to filter unqualified prospects and reveal insights about language proficiency, interests and your brand perception. It is an opportunity to showcase different sides of your institution and reinforce alumni successes.

International Lead Conversion

It is important that inquiries from all prospects, domestic or international, are addressed effectively and promptly. Students expect a quick email response, even if it is initially an auto-response with some helpful links – Hotcourses Abroad found that if given two similar universities, students from China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore would choose the one that responded fastest. Prospects prefer personalized responses signed by a staff member they can continue correspondence with.

Best practices:

Address the student by name Answer the question personally and in detail Provide helpful additional information, including social media and relevant links

Email drip marketing campaigns can efficiently track and manage large quantities of inquiries for the entire student life cycle, automatically triggering customized messages based on specific conditions that provide effective resources while minimizing staff requirements. Instead of leaving it up to prospects to continue correspondence as many colleges do, be persistent and frequent in your responses, varying the types of follow-up messaging and addressing potential concerns with multimedia supplemental information to increase the odds of making a connection.

Virtual Campus Tours and Hangouts

A campus tour is a big part of most students’ decision processes, providing the opportunity for them to envision if they can really spend their next four years there. International students rarely have the luxury of visiting a prospective campus ahead of enrollment but virtual tours can help bridge the gap, emphasizing a school’s strongest features and providing a glimpse of campus life. Google Maps Street View also offers interior virtual tours of some schools and a few US-based universities are already developing tours using new Oculus Rift virtual reality technology.

To get better personalized interaction despite the distance, more colleges and universities are adopting web-conferencing via easily accessible tools like Google Hangouts. These digital face-to-face tools not only allow admissions personnel to engage directly with international students, but also clarify solutions using whiteboards, share documents or slideshares, and guide prospects through relevant webpages via co-browsing. To make the most of these opportunities, school personnel should develop and rehearse a script to work from and test all equipment many times beforehand.

More International Recruitment Ideas

Digital marketing is advancing all the time, providing new tools for schools seeking a competitive edge in reaching prospects across the globe. Here are some innovative ideas for colleges and universities looking to access the world:

List with international portal sites Develop apps featuring application tips, sample lectures, campus videos/pictures English-language training (online modules and/or collaborations with other training facilities) or online language exchange Reach out to international alumni (through internal networks or tools like LinkedIn) to support recruitment activities

Whichever initiatives you pursue, improving your international student recruitment can best be accomplished when you have a thorough and accurate picture of your web activity. When managing several social media and other student marketing channels covering various markets, it becomes even more essential to have a clear system to reveal what is working where and monitor your ongoing reputation – software and student assistants can help. Google Analytics can help you to understand your student mix and top source countries so you can track and monitor your progress while effectively segmenting and customizing communications.

For colleges and universities seeking to move from passive to active international recruitment, Higher Education Marketing has created the new International Recruitment Action Plan with two service packages designed to generate measurable ROI improvements with immediate results.

What is your biggest international student recruitment challenge?

The Higher Ed Guide To Irresistible Email Subject Lines

When you log into email each morning, how many of those waiting messages do you actually open and read? How many get moved immediately to the trash – or worse, marked as spam?

If you’re habitually trashing the bulk of your inbox, you’re not alone. After years of being inundated with spam, we’ve all become increasingly untrusting of unsolicited mail. Here’s a snapshot of last years’ spam rates from a Kaspersky Lab report:

With well over half of our mail indexed as spam, it’s no wonder we’ve taken to auto-trashing! And although the numbers have decreased a bit in 2014 – down to about 66% – we’re no more eager to open mail we haven’t explicitly asked for.

Extra Hurdles for Higher-Ed Emailers

And for higher ed marketers hoping to reach prospective and current students, the challenge may well be even greater. Post-secondary hopefuls are more social media connected than ever – so your college recruitment team will have to work extra hard to be heard over a chorus of social media notifications, commercial messages, and competing email marketing campaigns. If you can convince leads to click on your school’s message, half the battle is won. So, crafting trash-proof subject lines is an essential component of your overall student recruitment strategy. Is there a simple recipe for success?

Contrary to what a Google search on the subject will tell you, there are few hard and fast rules for creating click-worthy subject lines. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, we know that ALL good content begins with consulting your college’s target student personas – which are of course unique and diverse. Once you’ve pinned down precisely who you’re writing to, there are a few fundamentals to consider when launching your next email marketing campaign:

Enticement + Clarity = Higher Student Open Rates

It’s a tricky balancing act – creating enticing emails that are also clear enough in their intent to actually get opened. Many how-to’s focus on the power of “mysterious” subject lines to get more clicks, claiming that merely wanting to know more will compel recipients to open the message. They might suggest a subject line like this for your school’s campaign:

There’s a question to elicit further interest, a bit of mystery surrounding the offer… seems pretty enticing right? Well, not exactly. According to Brad Bortone’s Marketing Experiments blog, mysterious subject lines like these fail to capture clicks because they don’t address the three questions every recipient wants to know before opening an email:

  • Who is this from?
  • Why are they emailing me?
  • What is this all about anyway??

So, the ultimate email subject line is one that captures interest, but doesn’t fall short on clarifying its purpose and intent.Unbounce agrees that setting your recipient’s expectations and stating clearly what’s in the message dramatically boosts its likelihood of avoiding the trash. With this in mind, here’s how we would re-work that first subject line:

There’s no need to “tempt” leads with a full-blown mystery. It will serve to confuse, rather than attract, which translates quickly into trashed.With option number two, the recipient understands who the message is from, and what it will contain – but there’s a nice balance of enticement with regard to the special deal on tuition. The questions raised here are of the good variety; the sort that prompt readers to click for more information. Here’s another “before and after” from U of Admissions Marketing:

Again, this is simply too mysterious to warrant a click. Prospective students will not be swayed by clichéd messaging. They need more reason than vague allusions to click on your school’s message. This would work better:

Enticement lies in discovering what those thousands of reasons are, and the sender is very good about identifying both the school and the program. When it comes to education lead generation, don’t let the mystery muddle the meaning. Use your marketing team’s creative muscle to genuinely address the concerns and interests of your target personas.

Shorter Isn’t Always Sweeter

Conventional marketing wisdom bows down to the “60 characters-or-less” rule for crafting trash-resistant subject lines. But a finer look at the details reveals that shorter is indeed not always sweeter when it comes to whetting the recipient’s appetite. An in-depth study by MailChimp reveals no statistical connection between open-rates and length alone. They analyzed 12 billion email sends in order to de-bunk the 60 characters or less rule. MailChimp found cases where yes, shorter subject lines got more clicks:

Subject character count vs Open rate graphs from MailChimp

But they also found examples where shorter subject lines fell flat, and longer descriptions scored the greatest number of opens:

And here’s another analysis where subject line length made little or no difference at all!

What can higher ed marketers learn from this data? That simply restricting characters will not guarantee an email open. According to SendGrid, relevancy is far more important than length when it comes to grabbing reader attention. If you’re focused solely on paring down line length, your admissions team could end up sacrificing on clarity or on truly targeting the needs of your most prevalent personas. You may end up with disappointing generic subjects, like:

VERSUS

Character-count never trumps content that your lead personas actually want to see, and need to know. The second subject is longer, yes, but it’s far more relevant and compelling than the first. Of course, getting to the point is best practice for crafting subject lines- particularly when optimizing for a mobile browser – but brevity alone shouldn’t be the guiding force behind your email marketing campaign.

Borrow From Blog Titles

You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. One way to quickly conceptualize everything we’ve discussed so far about email subject lines, is to think of them as effective blog titles. A lot of the same rules apply. Tried and tested techniques like the “How To” guide or “Top Ten” list work very well for higher ed subject lines – and they typically capture all of the elements we’ve touched on here: clarity, relevance, and concision. Consider these comparisons:

Your prospective student is more likely to open the second email for the same reason he or she would scan through a blog by the same title – because you’ve quantified the amount of reading the task entails, established clear expectations for what’s to come, AND you’ve used persona knowledge to create a message relevant to healthcare-oriented prospects. Perfect. Your recipient is primed to click and learn more about your program. Here’s another example for personas concerned about balancing work and study:

The second subject line tells recipients you’ve taken the time to put together a “How To” list that is pertinent to an issue that concerns them. This is inbound marketing 101 – offer thoughtful content that genuinely helps your leads succeed. So while we caution against following just one or two “rules” of thumb for crafting excellent subject lines, taking a lesson from blog titles can definitely offer a comprehensive go-to solution for busy admissions departments. Lines like these are relevant, to-the-point, and persona-driven. Which leads us to our next and final suggestion…

Use Student Persona-Powered Language

Much research has been compiled on the persuasive power of certain marketing words, such as BufferApp’s Words That Convert by Kevan Lee. Lee reminds his readers that regardless of objectives, industry, or target audience, the words we choose directly impact our marketing outcomes. Why? Because:

And when it comes to email subject lines, language choice has never been more important. It determines whether or not your message gets opened, which in turn determines the success of your school’s entire marketing initiative.

MailChimp urges marketers to “tell it, not sell it,” when crafting email subject lines. This is especially true for colleges who want to be known as institutions of learning, not profits-driven businesses. And the advice is in line with what we’ve discussed here already in terms of persona-worthy email subject lines. But one could (and should) push the concept of language power a step further by identifying the keywords most likely to resonate with specific student personas. What are your school’s main target audiences? Which keywords should you incorporate into your subject lines to help boost open rates?

For example, many colleges focus on affordability content to convert cost-conscious students. This is substantial proof about how your institution helps save students money on tuition, thereby lowering the amount of their post-school debt. If this issue is particularly important to your lead personas, why not incorporate affordability keywords into some of your email subject lines? These could include:

  • Lower tuition
  • Debtless degrees
  • Affordable training
  • Work-study program
  • Job placement success

Using Kevin Lee’s list as a reference point is great – but schools shouldn’t sound like they’re hawking a product:

College marketers should make a list of appropriate keywords that apply to their target audiences, and craft compelling, clear, relevant email subject lines around those ideas:

Just be prepared to back up your claims in the body of your email and wherever its links may lead! But that’s a subject for another blog post…

How are your school’s email open rates? Do your subject lines truly reach out to and engage prospective students?

What Should Educators Be Doing to Tap Into the Indian Market?

Recently we have seen quite a few reports being published on the Indian International student market with various findings giving us more insight about their behavior and preferences while choosing a university. We have summarized the key findings and have discussed ways how Universities and governments could modify their marketing communications and product offerings to rightly target this vast market.

Facts About India:

  • India sends out approximately 800,000 students abroad every year making it 2nd largest country for outbound international students, after China.
  • It could become the fastest growing market for undergraduate students studying abroad as early as 2015.
  • Indian Government plans to increase the rate of college going students to 30% in the next decade and the existing 400 universities in India can only accommodate 12% of that.
  • By 2028 half of India’s population will be under 25.

 

Key Findings Recommended Measures
A recent report by British council reveals that Indian students are keen to study abroad but are extremely cost sensitive and we can expect them to be even more sensitive considering the devaluation of INR.It is estimated that the average cost of study abroad has increased $10,000/year and only 0.4% of Indian families can afford that 

 

 

 

If Asian educators and recruiters play it right, this could mean a huge shift in the landscape.Asian universities could tap this opportunity by increasing the perceived value for money along with the governments taking radical steps to communicate to the Indian students, one clear message, that their countries can offer the same quality education at a much lower cost as compared to Europe, Australia and Americas.Institutions could create more flexible payment methods for international students along with targeted scholarships and bursaries

 

 

The same study reveals that Indian students give a lot of weightage to the host country’s employment policies for international students while studying or once they finish their degree. Last year the number of Indian students in UK decreased by 23% mainly because of the removal of post study employment opportunities.Number of international students in Canada have increased by 23% because the country is perceived to be a great option for permanent migration

 

Educators should be constantly lobbying with their governments to ensure that employment policies for international students should be as lenient as possible along with robust post study visa programmes. Australian educators have been successfully lobbying with policy makers and have managed to relax student employment policies.As a result of these employment friendly policies, Australia has seen a 36% increase in Indian students in the last year.

 

High quality courses and institutions remained by far the greatest pull factor for the students when choosing whether to study at home or abroad.Germany has seen a 19% increase in Indian students because Indian students see Germany as offering world-class education & opportunities in the automotive, engineering, and manufacturing industries

 

 

 

 

Educators need to emphasize more on improving the quality of courses being offered by them along with a focus on using alumni experiences and success stories in their communications.They need to work closely with the private sector to ensure a meaningful internship program along with a functional and effective placement department.This would help build confidence among students and decrease the trust deficit.

 

 

 

 

In the recent past we have seen Malaysia emerging as a popular study destination in Asia with reputed foreign universities opening their branch campuses in the country. Such initiatives by European, Australian, Canadian and North american universities will help them retain cost sensitive Indian students as they can offer similar courses and degrees at much economical costs.