top of page

Why financial incentives alone won't fix your international student recruitment issues

You're keen to recruit more students from a key overseas market, so will increasing the fees you pay your agents deliver more students?

While it seems logical that if you pay your agents more money they will work harder for you and recruit more students, there are a couple of important factors that stop it being that simple.

It's a highly competitive market with most agents representing up to 30 different universities, with all of those universities expecting their agent to recommend their university to prospective students.

So if you increase your agent fees in an attempt to "buy" the agent's recommendation ahead of the other universities they represent, you might get a short term boost in recommendation, but you will also inadvertently start a bidding war for the agents recommendation. The agent quite reasonably will share the news of their good fortune with the other universities they represent and let them know that without an increase in fees they won't get the level of recommendation they desire. Soon every university is paying more for the same level of recommendation. The only winner is the agent and you are stuck with paying more for the same number of students.

Buying an agent's recommendation only works in the short term and starts a fee war where everyone looses (except the agent).

Students need to be engaged in the reasons WHY they should apply to your university, so that they get excited and engage their parents in why they want to apply to your university. Too often the agents working in the branch offices who actually counsel students are unclear on the compelling proposition for a course at your university and are unable to find it on your website or in your collateral.

How relevant and engaging is the reason WHY students should apply to your university?

Research has shown time and time again that students from different countries have different needs rendering generic awareness driving marketing messages irrelevant as they don't talk about the things the prospective student values.

QS International Student Survey 2019 - Australia

The importance of a safe environment or part-time work varies enormously from market to market. Tailoring your proposition so it is relevant to the target market is crucial to engaging local prospective students to choose you.

Generic messages don't engage students from different markets with unique attitudes and behaviours based on their cultural heritage

Emotional engagement will always standout and be more memorable than a simple list of facts. So why does every university bombard their agents with a long list of facts all similar to each other? Universities need to accept that while they are paying an agent to recommend them, they are also one of 30 universities that agent represents. To be recommended they need to build a relationship with the agent and develop a unique and memorable proposition to engage students from the market to choose them.

5 key steps to improving your student recruitment in a target market;

  1. Pay your agents the market average fee and no more to avoid a bidding war for their services with the other universities they represent.

  2. Build your relationship with the branch offices who do the actual recruiting.

  3. Develop culturally relevant messaging by starting with the student's needs and then defining how the university meets their needs in a distinctive way.

  4. Invest in culturally distinct (country specific) talent and language to emotionally engage prospective students (and agents) in a way that stands out in a crowded market place.

  5. Bring your proposition to life in 60 second videos that are emotionally engaging, memorable to watch and easy to share from agent to student and student to parent.

If you would like to discuss your international recruitment strategy, please contact me.

John Chatterton





bottom of page