Choosing the right university abroad is a difficult process and making the final decision can be even tougher. But most of the times, students will consider at least a couple of the following 5 key factors:
Factor #1: Cost of tuition
We always try to make a point that the majority of internationally mobile students come from the middle-class families. This means that they are well-off, but not yet wealthy and therefore seek to get the best quality within a certain price range. The most attractive destinations for international students such as the US and the UK, however, have high tuition costs.
The best way to address this concern is to communicate clearly and in depth about scholarships, credit programmes and other funding opportunities for international students.
Factor #2: Local language
Of course, international students will have foreign language courses during their study abroad. However, if the teaching language is different from the one spoken in the country, certain issues might occur. Let’s imagine, for example, that there are programmes in English, but the university is in Bolivia where Spanish is the official language. International students who don’t speak Spanish will be able to choose only courses in English. And if these courses do not fit their needs, there may be no alternative.
Another issue concerns leisure time, networking and socialising. It already feels lonely to be away from your family and home country. In addition to this, students can encounter language barriers, cultural misunderstandings and even isolation, especially if no adequate inclusion programmes are in place. This explains why students tend to choose countries where the language is easy to learn, they want to learn it, or already know it.
The only way to attract students who choose countries by language is by having a wide variety of courses in different languages (ie. English, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese). Another asset is to offer great local language learning programmes.
Factor #3: Great university communication
A recent British Council report shows some upsetting results. Only 57% of top 500 universities in the world respond to student enquiries in a day or less. 68% of institutions don’t follow up and send a second email or a reminder. The saddest news? 21% of universities fail to answer at all!
If a student has to pick between 2 equally good universities that fit their needs, they will definitely choose the one with better communication.
Making feedback a priority is extremely important. That includes answering emails within 24 hours, calling back by the end of the day and being available on social media.
Factor #4: Great facilities and constantly improving infrastructure
If you wish to attract STEM students, you must provide the newest equipment in safe laboratories, ensuring collaboration and rapid learning.
Of course, not only STEM students should get top quality facilities. Libraries also have to meet constantly growing student needs and demands. Interactive classroom should use the latest technologies and digital learning platforms should become a priority in every university.
Remember, though, that not every improvement is costly. Joining a network for the latest scientific databases and having open access is the first step. Showcasing the strengths of your infrastructure should be one your marketing team’s primary objectives.
Factor#5: Inclusive and welcoming environment
This factor can go very far if it brings you positive feedback. International students often have a hard time, especially during the first couple of months of their studies abroad. They have left behind their family, friends, communities, country, culture and religion. They’ve often traveled half of the world, spent a fortune on tuition and related costs, and now they’re standing in their dorm room with a suitcase and a mix of happiness and anxiety.
What happens next is important and will be visible on their social media, discussions with friends and work colleagues years after, letters to the family and various other occasions. Are they feeling invited to activities and events, or are they there just standing around, not understanding what’s happening due to language barriers? Are they supported by a mentor, another student or a consultant that is ready to answer their questions? Is it easy to make new acquaintances for more introverted, shy people? Are there formal and informal opportunities for representing various cultures and celebrating differences? Are stereotypes and cases of discrimination taken seriously and solved urgently? Is it possible to reach other students that come from similar cultures, or are they feeling disconnected from their roots?
Building a diverse, open and multicultural environment has to be a top priority for every international university. It’s easy to showcase through alumni networks, social media and open days. It’s easy to ensure through a diverse student portfolio, inclusion and community programmes and a thoughtful recruitment strategy.
What other factors do international students consider when choosing a university abroad? Share your knowledge and experience in the comments below!