“We work with institutions to help to really understand their diversification goals”
“I think that we have learnt a lot, and maybe at the start, we got it wrong, to be really honest,” said Trainor.
“A lot of the metrics that are being created are around volume of applications – I think that’s the wrong metric.
“In the UK, for example, we’re now moving towards having the application ready for a full offer rather than conditional offers so when it actually gets there, we’ve tested visa suitability and a whole range of things,” Trainor continued.
“Based on that, we’re probably now looking at roughly 40% of applications not actually proceeding to institutions as well.”
The points were strengthened by the discussion during the webinar of the argument regarding what recruiters’ end goal needs to be.
“The end for many recruiters seems to be the enrolment stage, but to me that removes an aspect of accountability,” commented Judith Lamie, pro VC international at Swansea University.
“Actually an end is when the students graduate and whether they can get a job at the end of it – so we should be looking, when we’re talking about quality, measurements and quantity, at accountability,” Lamie explained.
Panelists were asked if retention should be part of the business model for “all partners”, and not just those who choose to “engage with enrolment solutions”.
“We work with institutions to help to really understand their diversification goals, and therefore to tailor the models and approaches in communication to make sure that we are finding students for whom said institution is the right institution,” Jessica Turner, group managing director at QS said.
“It’s a very personalised and customised engagement journey – we’re being asked by some institutions to then work with them on retention, because it’s having that student achieve those career outcomes and graduate – that is what success means,” she continued.
When it comes to diversity, the approaches by companies were differing, even during the pandemic when border closures were affecting markets.
“About 12 months ago we bet heavily in Africa – we are really thinking of where the market has huge potential in terms of growing numbers of students,” said Meti Basiri, CEO of Applyboard.
“When you look at diversity, it’s something that the whole sector needs to work together on – it’s not easy to just say ‘hey, you are the partner of the institution, you’re responsible for bringing more diversity’.”
David Pilsbury, chief development officer at Oxford International Education Group, agreed that responsibility doesn’t completely belong to partners.
“The point is, you have all these tools as a university, but you do have the responsibility for using them,” he said during the webinar.
“You also need to refine your strategy by how you can create a position that is sustainable, that responds, that reflects more.”
That need for diversity means that the choice of partner is made exponentially more difficult – because there are so many new models to choose from.
“There’s all these different business models that have been created that are on the go,” Trainor explained.
“It’s having that student achieve those career outcomes and graduate – that is what success means”
“I think the one thing is there are no right or wrong models that are being created here at the moment.
“It feels like every second day new platforms are being launched, and there is kind of a stigma around aggregators and what that means – and, would you believe, we’ve been through a pandemic… so I have a lot of empathy for institutions, it’s such a challenging time for the industry,” Trainor added.
Turner spoke about QS’s acquisition of an aggregator platform, which Basiri reminded the audience is not a new business model, although the tech enablement of sub-agencies is the newer phenomenon.
QS acquired StudentApply in late 2021, opening up a “whole new market”.
“It’s a really innovative startup based in Kazakhstan – they’ve got presence in Colombia, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam, and they’re helping universities tap into really diversified cohorts,” she said.
“Using our enrolment solutions to help, they can really effectively enrol students from those diverse markets – and by partnering with high school counsellors and student influencers, we’re really focusing on quality applicants from those markets,” she added.
Trainor mentioned how having people on the ground can be beneficial for multiple factors.
“The driver’s seat is back with the institutions”
“Lately, we have people on the ground in all regions… it’s still a relationship game at the moment, but particularly with the institutions we need to understand the challenges that have been eventuating, but also about training as well.”
Basiri also added that ApplyBoard has made an acquisition in the training space to help globalise a quality control and enable institutions to train multiple agents at once.
“We have our existing course we created last year, in which we invested $2 million – thousands of people are now taking that course, which is a deep dive to every single country’s recruitment,” Basiri explained.
“Our new acquisition, which we’ll be announcing in the next three weeks, I think will be exciting because it allows our institutions to be able to train our recruitment partner, through tech,” he added.
Trainor added that new dashboard transparency at Adventus enabled institutions to select which agents or which region it wanted to work in.
“Now the industry is moving – you can go into the platform, you can look at what agents you would not like to work with, can look at what regions you would like to and not like to go to, what courses you can offer – it’s becoming a lot more bespoke.
“The driver’s seat is back with the institutions, and technology has allowed that to eventuate, which is very exciting,” he added.
To access the mega-webinar and see time-stamped answers to submitted audience questions, click here.
To download the PIE Insider Student Recruitment Digest 2022, click here.