Having been engaged in some
capacity with agents for almost 14 years prior to working at IDP, I felt reasonably
confident in my knowledge. However I
have come to realise that I had a number of preconceptions and, dare I say,
misconceptions about what it is to effectively manage the relationship and
support an agent network.
The majority of UK
institutions have been working successfully with agents now for some time; many
have robust processes and procedures in place to deal with agent enquiries and
applications effectively, they also offer regular training be it via virtual
platforms, face to face in-country or even through training conferences in the
UK. However there is one area where, in
my opinion, we as a sector can continue to improve and in doing so really add
value for agent partners.
A recurring theme in my
conversations with IDP colleagues across our global network of more than 30
countries is the hunger for stronger, differentiated messaging about the specific
programmes of study that UK institutions have to offer, this includes tangible
evidence of excellence along with further case studies showcasing
employability, student success and value for money.
We find ourselves in an
incredibly turbulent operating environment where Government policy and rhetoric
have had a significant impact on our work and will continue to do so for the
foreseeable future. It is therefore critical that we take ownership of those things
within our sphere of control, and for institutions this includes building a
compelling narrative to articulate their points of competitive difference.
This is particularly true
today where the sector is witnessing unprecedented levels of global competition
and also a significant increase in student expectations, which is driven in
part by the breadth and immediacy of information at their disposal via
digital platforms. At IDP we have a global network of over 650 trained
counsellors; these are experienced staff that are committed to providing
students with transparent and essential information on their future study options.
As students and their parents
find that they have more choice, then their information needs also evolve, they
desire greater personalised and detailed content. They want our counsellors to
help them meaningfully differentiate between one programme compared to another. They do not want generic or vague
information, as this will not enable them to make an informed decision.
It might therefore be
advisable for institutions to revisit their messaging and look with a critical
eye at how they present and promote their programmes for international
audiences. This enhanced content can
then be provided to agent partners as part of their training resources.
An additional factor that has
also become apparent to me, again following feedback from my colleagues
overseas, is the need for institutions to undertake additional destination
marketing in relation to their town / city and region. This is relevant on two levels; firstly, where
there is perhaps an understandable leaning towards London when students and
parents think of the UK and have less awareness of other locations.
Second, and I feel this is
particularly pertinent given the current political discourse in the aftermath
of the EU Referendum, is to help present the UK as a welcoming, tolerant and
safe place to study. Studying overseas
is an emotional and often life changing decision, for students but in
particular their parents, it is also a significant personal not just financial
Therefore when institutions
develop messaging and collateral around student life and experience, they may
wish to align and incorporate content from external sources to include
information on wider off-campus communities, diaspora groups, faith and
worship, culture, food, heritage and tourist attractions.
Our IDP student buying behaviour
provides further insight on factors that institutions may want to consider when
developing their marketing and recruitment strategies. The research explores the perceptions that international students have of the five
major English-speaking study destinations in relation to key attributes namely
quality of education, graduate employability opportunities, affordability,
safety and visa requirements.
forward to presenting the latest findings at Universities UK International's InternationalHigher Education Forum.