The importance of human connections as new technologies evolve
IHEF returned to our screens on 28 Feb and 1 March – filled with sharp insights into the future of international higher education. Our IHEF 2023 partner AECC Global shared powerful keynote on their exclusive insights and data. Here, they delve into the importance of human connections in our increasingly digital world.
In 2022, the UK exceeded its target of 600,000 enrolled international students - ten years ahead of schedule. This year, the future continues to look bright for international student recruitment as UK universities deliver a quality and truly welcoming experience for students from all around the world.
But the landscape of international student recruitment is changing. Rapid digitisation necessitated by the pandemic, the explosion of Software as a Service (SaaS) tech, the introduction of AI powered platforms like Chat GPT and the remote work revolution have changed the world - and international student recruitment is no different.
New technologies have empowered us to index thousands of data points to improve search efficiency, give highly personalised recommendations to students, host virtual open days, and connect students online ahead of their relocation (a great comfort for those moving many kilometres from home).
But the experience of students on their study abroad journeys in new countries is a very human thing. When exciting new technologies enter the stage, this focus on the human experience can often be forgotten.
Keeping human connection
What we do is deeply rooted in human connection. At AECC, we focus on a hybrid approach. This hinges on three core benefits we consider non-negotiable when it comes to student recruitment:
- We can make real connections and build meaningful relationships with students and institutions alike
- Technology should serve to enhance the student experience and reduce repetitive tasks without taking away the critical human touchpoints with counsellors
- We seek to continue to develop deep insight and authority in local markets, and the communities our partners have cultivated in order to best connect with students
The best of both worlds
AECC is definitely “pro-tech”. In 2020 we established our Digital Innovation Hub, which has been instrumental in helping us transform the experience for our students with:
- Our AECC Student online platform and mobile app, allowing instant application, updates, and document submission, reducing timely manual processes and increasing transparency
- AECC Search, where students can intelligently search thousands of courses on the basis of location, subject interest, career outcomes, and even scholarship opportunities in seconds
- AECC Skills, a complimentary career-focused skills assessment for our prospective students completed prior to their first engagement with us. We’ve delivered 22,000+ skills assessments so far, enriching our counselling process and helping our students better identify their strengths and potential career outcomes.
That said, a key value for us is not to let this tech “innovate away” the human element.
Every day our 1000-strong team throughout 50 offices across 14 countries connects with students on a deeply personal level, helping them to navigate their study abroad journey. Our team speaks 21+ different languages. And to put it simply, we love what we do.
However “user friendly” a technology is, it still treats the student as a “user” rather than a participant or applicant.
Websites, search functions, and chat services should support the work of the counsellor on the phone or behind the desk.
Our view is that a hybrid strategy of one-to-one relationships combined with innovative technology will always be most effective for supporting students as they seek to study abroad.
Our “why” is to open up the world to aspiring students. What we offer is not a transactional placement service. We facilitate real, emotional, educational recruitment and application experiences that change the lives of our students.
We choose to focus not on the technical innovations themselves, but how they best connect people, rather than drive them further apart for the sake of convenience.
That’s why for us, the journey we facilitate for our students will always be rooted in people-to-people connection and real relationships and that is something we are proud of.
AECC Global returns as our partner for IHEF 2024, taking place in-person on 1 and 2 May at the University of London's Senate House. Secure your place early.