Educationalists don’t like education described as a “product,” but for us to recruit International Students, we need to think of it in marketing terms – and in marketing terms, we are selling a product. (Actually, a service product.)
Let’s get down to basics. In simple terms, Marketing is
For example, a car is one product that could satisfy the need for transport. A Toyota, a Volvo, a Porche, and a Rolls Royce all satisfy that need, but also provide other benefits. Toyotas have a reputation for reliability and ease of service and repair, so give their owners peace of mind. Volvos are more expensive, but have a reputation for high safety levels; a Porche can provide excitement (or the image of it), while a Rolls Royce can combine several of those factors, and give an experience of luxury, and a feeling of high status. A “product” therefore, is the sum total of its perceived benefits.
So, what are the benefits (and therefore the product) that potential international students are looking for?
Surveys show that students make their decision based:
FIRSTLY – on country. For some young people New Zealand is too small, too remote, too unexciting, and lacking an Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/Yale equivalent. But for others we are perceived as clean, green, law abiding, open, tolerant, friendly, and innovative.
In addition, the MoE and NZQA assure the quality of our institutions and courses, and New Zealand has a good reputation for high quality of our education. In the private sector, New Zealands’ Student Fee Protection Scheme is seen by agents to be a definite competitive advantage. To promote our institutions, we need to also emphasise all of these those national qualities.
SECONDLY - on course. As educators, we must ensure the relevance and good outcomes of our courses (satisfying the needs and wants of students), and to promote our particular institution, we need to emphasise our “product differentiation.”
THIRDLY - on institution. We may not be Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/Yale, but not everyone can, or wants to attend those institutions. The fact is that almost any institution in New Zealand will have smaller classes than the schools students have come from, and probably and better facilities. Certainly in the Primary and Secondary sector, playgrounds, and sport and cultural opportunities will be far better. The key benefit to be promoted here is Pastoral Care. Surveys of agents show that the number one factor in their recommendation of a school is the quality of Pastoral Care. And who can blame them? Parents really will not be able to judge education quality between schools, but they will very quickly let the agent know if their child complains about not being looked after properly. The number one concern of International Students both before and after arrival is accommodation. How good is your Homestay/accomodation system? How well do you look after your International Students?
All of these Pastoral Care factors are “benefits of your product” that you need to identify and promote. And if they are not up to the standards of “best practice,” fix them!