How to Identify the Right Data to Drive International Student Recruitment Strategy

Which types of data do institutions need to maximize their potential to recruit international students? Find out more below.

With more student behavior and mobility data available than ever before, it would only follow that finding data-driven solutions to the most common international student recruitment challenges would be simple and straightforward.  

Yet the sheer volume of accessible data across a wide variety of sources can be a challenge to navigate and make actionable with expediency. Student influences and attitudes, socioeconomic forces, and population trends will fluctuate, but the demand for tertiary education and advancement opportunities remain a constant, which can be explored through data.  

But which types of data can be leveraged as a tool to advance international student recruitment objectives? How can different types of data such as student behaviors and attitudes, online behavior, and education landscape data aid in communicating with and attracting more students to apply to your institution?  

Here are three common recruitment challenges and how data can help to solve them:  

1. Understand study abroad reservations and what messaging helps alleviate fears

With a global pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions, international students have more concerns than before. In order to speak directly to students’ hesitations in studying abroad, recruitment teams can look at the QS International Student Survey (ISS) and QS Coronavirus Pulse Survey data.  

For example, if we examine responses from prospective international students from India, who make up a significant proportion of international students worldwide, we discover that the cost of living, safety, and availability of scholarships are their greatest concerns, according to the ISS.  

The survey data in the ISS also shows that, knowing other students enrolled at a specific university, having a channel to talk directly to current international students, and the potential to visit the country would go a long way in alleviating these concerns.  

From this information, recruitment teams can solve these communications gaps with various approaches. Launching student ambassador programs to connect current students to potential candidates from India through a variety of social channels is one way in which to do this.  

Armed with this information, institutions can also optimize the content on their official websites for prospective international students with videos and testimonials that showcase what student life and culture is like on campus.  

2. Evaluate new markets for specific degree programs based on candidate search behavior

For this example, let’s examine what an institution with a growing Architecture degree could do to recruit more international students.  

Having recently cracked the QS Subject Rankings, the recruitment team for this institution would like to expand outreach into markets that are most interested in the subject.  

Looking at recent online student behavior on, we can see that nearly 10% of total subject page views for Architecture were from Bulgaria, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Romania. Roughly 3% of pageviews were from Kenya, Vietnam, and Thailand.  

The recruitment team now has enough data to prioritize the markets considered to be more receptive to their Architecture program.  

3. Defending decisions for travel and city-level marketing targeting

As budgets continue to tighten, international student recruitment teams will need to become more strategic in preparing their on-the-ground outreach for when air travel returns to normal.  

In this example, we find that our recruitment team is planning to attend student recruitment fairs in the Netherlands in the spring of 2021 and needs to know how to best allocate their time.  

Based on student traffic on they learn, based on an average of 23,000 people a month from the Netherlands, that 26% of volume comes from Amsterdam, 8% from Rotterdam, and 6% from the Hague.   

Beyond that, the lesser-known but studentfriendly cities of Utrecht, Groningen, and Delft emerge as potential hotspots. The recruitment team now feels confident that their travel, should restrictions be lifted, will be worth the investment.   

To better understand how student behavior and education landscape data can inform international student recruitment, download the white paperUtilizing Big Data for International Student Recruitment


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