International study is more popular than ever, with international students making up 20.7% of the total student population. Doors to countries are opening up following the isolation that COVID brought and students are more willing to travel around the globe to study on the best programmes at the best business schools. It can be hard to attract international students when there is such a huge market and the selection of business schools is vast. However, the international market should not be seen as a challenge but rather as an opportunity for business schools to showcase their brilliant programmes, faculty and reputation.
Perhaps an obvious port of call, but important nonetheless, is utilising international PR to promote a business school. Schools need to make themselves stand out amongst a huge global market and targeting a new geographical sphere requires a different kind of PR. However, the tips and tricks are not all too different – it is more about understanding the differences between national and international markets.
The best way to get started is by planning how you are going to achieve your goals, and this involves time and research. You need to be up to date with what the popular publications are in the different areas of the world, so that you can reach out to the relevant media and journalists. What makes a headline varies from country to country, so make sure you are aware of what influences the media landscape in your target market. Understand who the audience is that you are trying to reach out to, and know what kind of information they are interested in. By facilitating your own greater understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in global markets, you are catering for a much more effective international PR strategy.
Setting yourself apart
As mentioned before, an important strategy in attracting international students is setting yourself apart in such a big market - you need students to know why they should pick your business school over any other. Thankfully, business schools have the tools to do so right at their fingertips – through students, faculty, alumni and their programmes.
Telling student stories
Telling student stories is a great way to secure international students. Potential students want to know what it is like to attend the school, and what the future may hold for them if they do choose to apply. By providing them with first-hand experience through alumni or current students, they can get to really know what the school is actually like. Alumni do not really have any obligation to offer an amazing review of the school, which makes them all the more credible.
Showcase your programmes
Another great way to attract international students is to showcase the programmes that are offered at your school. You need to really highlight what makes your programme special - perhaps there is some really great technology involved, perhaps there are modules that are not offered anywhere else, perhaps there is access to programmes offered by faculty in different parts of the world, like an exchange programme. Whatever it is, make sure potential students know about what you can offer. They are investing their time and money into the school, and it is messages like these that will attract them, and confirm that they are getting their money’s worth!
Showcase an array of leading faculty
In addition to programmes, business schools should show the array of leading faculty they have. By emphasising the high calibre of teaching and research staff, you are demonstrating to prospective students that you really are one of the top schools out there, and can provide a really great quality of education.
Utilise key learning platforms
Another strategy in attracting international students to business schools is through utilising key learning platforms. As we live in a digital age where most information is taken in through social media, make sure that you are promoting your content on all key learning platforms, whether that be Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. You could be posting cool research done by professors, a new MSc programme or the story of how an MBA changed a student's life. By putting your content out there, you have the potential to reach an even wider audience and ensure that many prospective students will see exactly what it is that the school are doing.
Finally, the last good way to secure students in a global market is by holding events that will help promote awareness of your school and its reputation. Whether this be in person or virtually, this can offer students the chance to interact with your school, through talking to staff, hearing from Deans or even the alumni of top MBA programmes. Events really generate interest and ensure that a business school is memorable.
The international market can be a big, scary place. However, understanding how to navigate it can really create some amazing opportunities for business schools and even better for those students wanting to apply there!
Author: Ariella Durban