Adam has 15 years experience in the education sector, having worked for Durham University and the University of Sunderland, and most recently as Head of International Recruitment & Mobility at Teesside University, UK.

International education has felt the pandemic more than most. Locked borders and quarantine measures stagnated intakes overnight. With vaccine rollouts well underway, institutions are understandably eager to rebuild the student pipeline. 

To boost intakes, and cover the deficit, there is much work to do. Attracting students globally, establishing a diverse cohort, and promoting an institution’s brand are just some areas of necessary focus. 

But post COVID-19, the landscape has changed entirely. Travelling to promote institutions, or holding events, is more challenging. Universities must think differently, adapt to the new world order and embrace the power of data if they’re to thrive.

The data black hole 

Currently, international recruitment relies heavily on counsellors, in-country promotions, and digital advertising. Pre-pandemic there was plenty of travel for international recruiters, however, demonstrating the ROI of traditional methods of recruitment was not always easy.

Now there exists an opportunity for universities to embrace the power of data. Analytics has the potential to position institutions in the markets of greatest potential return and in the context of competitor performance. Despite the benefits of data analysis, both commercially and strategically, it’s often absent from international strategy and long-term forecasting.

The data that’s currently used––in the form of insights, reports and third-party surveys––is typically dated and lacking in true value. Over time, trends change and, importantly, it’s often too late to influence student behaviour. There’s no telling that what happened last year will happen again.

Not only that, the data is often untailored and lacking in detail. It generally only shows conversions––failing to show the whole student journey from research to acceptance. The data doesn’t show where students also applied to, or which institutions they considered as part of their progress to their ultimate institution of choice, what role recruiters played, nor why they made their final decision. 

The use of data in higher education 

Using data and analytics is arguably the most powerful tool universities can use to influence the student pipeline.

While the area is relatively new, some institutions are already using and succeeding with data. Take Arizona University, which was able to improve student success rates while decreasing dropout rates by 54% after embracing the power of analytics. 

And there are large organisations recognising the value of data. The Association for Institutional Research (AIR), EDUCAUSE, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) issued a joint statement to cite the importance of using data and analytics in higher education to make strategic decisions. 

There is some willingness on the part of institutions too. One report found that 69% of institutions recognise the importance of data use in some areas of the institution, however, only 28% saw it as a priority for the entire organisation. 

Data to inform the recruitment strategy 

For data to become influential and usable, it needs to be both specific, real-time and agile. It should show the ‘who’––in terms of demographic, nationality, gender, and age––as well as the ‘what’. Because trends change continually, data must tell the current story, show where students are going, and what decisions they are making as they progress through the funnel today––not a few months ago.

In a huge market, it’s important for institutions to pinpoint the precise stage at which students are dropping off, then compare themselves to other institutions, which might be able to attract students more effectively and efficiently. This way it’s possible to see where the untapped opportunities exist. 

At, we empower institutions with specific, comparative, real-time data. Universities can drill down to the precise areas of both improvement and opportunity. We then help them boost rankings, track campaigns, and drive intakes like never before. 

Data to differentiate 

Universities have different recruitment goals. Data can help inform and meet those expectations be it increasing diversity and focusing on emerging markets, or increasing the scale of enrolments by targeting more established markets. 

Whatever an institution’s objectives, data should be intrinsic to meeting those goals and at we have the insight to differentiate a high-performing institution from the masses.

To learn more about accelerating international recruitment at your institution through the marketplace, contact Adam Rennison via LinkedIn or submit an enquiry and we’ll reach out to you.

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