You have likely heard the term “design by committee”; well in education it’s an institution.

I recall watching in horror. Ideas subjected to a thousand paper cuts from internal guidelines, industry compliance, and a need to be all things to all people. You send out a devil-may-care supercharged hot-rod and it comes back a beige electric smart car with a range of 40 miles.

In Education the committee approach is what everyone is used to, largely because it protects those involved from key decision making responsibility while allowing everyone to have their say. Admittedly in the case of industry compliance it does take a few eyes to make sure things are all in order.

But when you think about great art, invention and innovation, much of it can be attributed to the strong vision of one or two individuals. Art is about personality, and it’s through an artist’s unique quirks and idiosyncrasies that artistic works can have a life of their own. If you can find a team to follow your vision closely, you may produce something truly memorable.

I promise you we are still talking about marketing.

The way I see it, every now and then the artistic process and marketing process can be the same thing. Whether it is a memorable advert, a surprising guerrilla campaign or an iconic public installation, marketing can be inspired. And this is why sometimes there’s value in allowing talented people the time, space and freedom to execute a project or idea from start to finish.

Sure it may not always go to plan, and may initially come across reckless, but if you want to make something great you may need to back someone with a bold vision.

Or better yet, back yourself in.



International education is pretty unique- though I often compare it to weddings and funerals. You pay a lot of money, have a party at the end and you leave with a title be it Doctor, Husband or Deceased.

When thinking about the future of international education however, one industry I often turn to is the travel industry. There was a time (if you remember) when most all holiday flights and accommodation were booked by your local travel agent. Today those same agents are having a hard time of it, being replaced by big brand conglomerates and online search / booking platforms.

In our industry we have seen a few agents build global brands and many have attempted to introduce the type of online search functions we’ve seen in travel. Interestingly no one has quite hit the nail on the head or gained any real industry-changing momentum.

The problem these agents face is that providing personalised education advice requires a lot of information from a prospective student, and you cant have a search form with 100 fields can you?

Wait, can you? What if I said you could pre-fill those 100 fields with just a name and email address?

I say this because LinkedIn have already built the world’s most comprehensive online agency platform, only I’m not sure they know about it yet. If you don’t know what I’m talking about have a look here.

The LinkedIn system draws on its extensive knowledge of a user’s education, experience, location and many other personal details to provide an extremely comprehensive education search and suggestion function.

Essentially LinkedIn have an online automated counselling system that could be this industry’s 100-ton sleeping giant.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you feel the rising thunder beneath your feet.

But seriously, just imagine LinkedIn did decide to open an online education placement service under an agency agreement model with institutions… How would this revolutionise our industry, both for institutions and for agents?

Like most upheavals this will sound like an exciting opportunity to some and a threatening development to others. Either way, we need to take notice.


What if I said there was no such thing as a USP? At first you may instinctively list off 5 or so things about your organisation, product or service you’ve determined to be unique in your market– but whatever those things are, think again; are they really one of a kind?

So ok, let’s say technically they are. Now are they relevant enough to sway a customer? Do these bullet points stand out as unique and put you head and shoulders above your competitors?

Education sales and marketing staff often tangle themselves up trying to find a USP when attempting to create their value proposition. When from the student’s perspective, apart from a few bells and whistles, the majority of your offering will look the same when listed beside the offering of your competitors.

To the customer they are not unique selling points, they’re just plain old selling points.

But don’t give up on uniqueness. Just because you can’t present a USP that truly matters it doesn’t mean you can’t present and promote what you do have in a unique and compelling way.

So assuming you have a quality product or service with quality selling points. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to figure out if you have “more recycling bins than any other campus!!” and start thinking about how you can uniquely differentiate the communication method of your value proposition.

With today’s technology and the ease of communication there are so many opportunities to deliver your message to customers in an innovative way. Innovation is a language, so when delivering your plain old selling points be as grandiloquent  as you can.

With the right approach you may just stand out from the crowd – or stand on a recycling bin, you’ve got enough of them.




Application to Enrolment Strategy

If I had to come up with an analogy for eMarketing, it would go something like this, eMarketing is like standing on a pier, watching a school of fish swim by, and trying to dive in and catch them with your bare hands. You can see them, measure them, know where they are, but without the right tools, skill and knowledge they will continue to slip away.

30th October 2008 – the first time I ever used online advertising; it was Facebook, Vietnam, 16 to 24 year olds, you know the drill!  Successful if the measure was clicks, but a dismal failure if the measure was quality, convertible leads. So 5 years on and after many continued attempts at catching those online metaphorical fish, I am sorry to report that this approach still proves to be a challenge. Leads will always find a way to flip back into the water or simply be inedible..!

Despite this frustration I have learned a trick or two when it comes to casting the recruitment net. So instead of diving head first into the complex business of catching cold fish from the pier, let’s looks at ways of hooking your already warm leads and scooping a few extra fish away from the red oceans of the online education market.

I firmly believe the majority of institutions are too caught up with generating leads, as opposed to utilising eMarketing to ensure the conversion of existing leads and access high quality referral opportunities from students that have enrolled via traditional means. What I mean by this, is that before you attempt to generate fantastic online campaigns you need to ask yourself the following: “Do we have an application to enrolment conversion strategy that makes the most of e-marketing opportunities at every enrolment stage?” If your answer is no or if you are unsure then I believe this needs to be your first port of call.

To set the tone; more often than not an international student has applied to you because:

  1. They meet your entry requirements
  2. They want to study abroad
  3. They want to study with you and your brand (or you’ve at least made the shortlist) &
  4. They have financial capacity to pay tuition fees

Any student with the above attributes is absolute gold dust to a recruiting institution and I am confident (actually let me rephrase, I know for a fact) many would pay big bucks to access them.

The reason for this is that the majority of international students who apply mix in online circles with other prospective students exhibiting the attributes of points 1, 2 and 3 above. Therefore with many institutions hovering around 25% to 35% conversion rates – it is extremely important to EFFECTIVELY connect with your prospective students and their friends fast!

There are many ways this can be done and what I would like to do today is provide a simplified example of the type of experience from application to enrolment a student should (in my opinion) experience, centred on the use of online / technological strategies.

Application Stage – This is your opportunity to form a tangible relationship with your prospective student. Therefore, students should immediately receive a (very short) email & mobile text message, both thanking and acknowledging their application. Via these 2 channels it is imperative to invite students to join official social media via your Social Media Dashboard. One of my favourites is the Harvard Dashboard, they have made it extremely easy to navigate and connect, taking all the hassle out of finding official / relevant social networks. Check them out and if your institution doesn’t have one – get one!

Offer Letter Stage – This is your chance to really hook your student, by increasing both their knowledge and personal investment in your institution – two ingredients vital to eventual conversion! Many institutions unfortunately use an offer letter in its most basic form, i.e. name, pleasantries, basic programme / institution details, T&C’s etc. THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Especially when students are often holding 5 of them at once.

Therefore, it is extremely important that your offer letter is optimised to not only address key points, but most importantly, via interactive links highlight exciting key selling points from both a course and institution perspective. Think of your offer letter as an information hub, with a selection of both general / bespoke links and interactive options that prompt the offer holder to dive deeper and deeper into your institution.

I am not suggesting you turn your offer letter into a Christmas tree with excessive social media logos and pictures, I am merely suggesting you think outside the box. But remember, it is important to align your offer with the brand image you are trying to portray.

Acceptance Stage – This is your chance to connect with the peer group of your newly recruited student. Therefore you need to utilise this opportunity to publicly celebrate the fact that a student will be joining your institution. Again, how far you go with this is up to you, however the longer you leave it the less chance you have of reaching your future students immediate and extended network. Social integration, an online group or something that allows the student and your institution to celebrate publicly what is going on!

Enrolment Stage – At this point you need to ensure that your international students have joined / signed up to all official online social media channels. This is your spring board to continually promote your institution to a network, of on average, 250 people per student. Select certain students to start blogging on their experience (pay them if necessary and allow them to be honest – click here for a sample), run photo or video competitions with themes linked to their course / institution or simply use the network to promote visits by staff / International Officers.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg with many possibilities, therefore I am not saying you should do them all or that this is conclusive. What you do need to do is develop a strategy that suits your institution, is sustainable and most importantly utilises your existing offer holders / student base to spread the word about how great your institutions is. Then, and only then, may you look at online strategies seeking to generate new business!



Education Volcano

In the year 1190 a man named Emo of Friesland enrolled at Oxford University and in the process became the world’s first recorded “international student”. You could argue that as a result of Emo’s pioneering actions, the international education industry was born…

Yet, for a true understanding of how the modern education industry began we must fast-forward 796 years to 1986. It was in this year that the Australian government, with the stroke of a pen, empowered universities to accept full fee paying international students with the option of paying commission to recruitment agents. This move immediately created a 2000% growth in international enrolments. An industry born overnight!

Today, the US is the largest exporter of international education with 764,000 students currently studying upon their shores. This represents 20% of the international education market vs. the 23% currently cornered by Australia, Canada and the UK. All things being equal, this sounds about right, based on population and the fact that the US hosts a great deal more colleges and universities than other countries.

However, things are not equal. Australia, Canada and the UK pay agent commissions to student recruitment professionals, whereas US based Universities & Colleges do not. In this respect the US is still yet to go through the change that Australia experienced in 1986.

This situation is a result of a ban by the NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counselling) the purpose of which being to ensure that the US export of education has largely developed organically, without the influence of offshore student recruitment agents. Hence, US institutions are subject to the following:

All members will not offer or accept any reward or remuneration from a secondary school, college, university, agency, or organization for placement or recruitment of students.”

For the uninitiated, recruitment agents drive a majority percentage of international student recruitment & placement in the UK, Canada and Australia. In fact 57.6% of international students studying in Australia are recruited via an agent, representing half a billion (probably more) in agent commission payments.

Now, imagine if the US education industry were to suddenly commence working with international student recruitment agents? The commission up for grabs would almost certainly hover somewhere around the billion dollar mark. Of the agents I know, large and small, it would be safe to say that most of them would want in and pronto!

So with NACAC currently looking at lifting this ban on US education commission payments, we must ask ourselves the following very important questions:

1)     Will the US explode as a destination, similar to Australia?

2)     Will agent guided students travelling to the US choose the same institutions, or will there be a redistribution?

3)     What will this mean for the industry as a whole, especially UK, Canada & Australia?

In order to help you answer the above questions you may want to consider this fact: International students represent around 22% of total higher education students in Australia… in the USA this figure is just 3.5%.



Education Inflation

Inflation is defined as the “substantial rise in the general level of prices related to an increase in the volume of money and resulting in the loss of value of currency.”

Education Inflation is a concept I have been thinking about for some time, professional employment opportunities are diminishing for graduates and the number of degree holders is increasing. You can see where I am going here, your degree is currency and the price of securing that dream job is rising rapidly.

Many students I speak with still hold a belief that simply completing a degree is a ticket to that dream job. That may have been the case previously; however in 2012 a degree is quite simply a ticket for your application to even be considered for interview and little more.

Whether you’re an international or domestic student you need to make sure you add as much value as possible to your qualification. So select a degree programme employers are looking for, ensure it’s at a reputable institution and most importantly seek out valuable practical / extra-curricular experience.

Now more than ever, it is important that your education and work history tells a story to employers, so make sure that the degree you choose will look like a appropriate chapter in the story of how you got your dream job.


USA study abroad

The US may attract more international students than any other destination; however it also comes with one of the largest price tags. On average, students will fork out $28,000 per year on tuition alone, that’s before you even consider accommodation, food, books etc. Therefore don’t expect to see much change out of $150,000 for a 4 year US Degree!

To combat these high fees, students have often used Community Colleges to transfer to US Colleges & Universities. The strategy is simple, complete a 2 year Associate Degree at Community College and transfer to the college / university of your choice to complete the final 2 years and realise your degree.

On paper this sounds great, however the fundamental problem is that students are required to re-apply in order to gain 3rd year entry – therefore no guarantee of where (or if) they will complete their degree. For international students, the uncertainty attached to this study option has been extremely off putting; therefore it is not as popular as perhaps it could be.

Seattle Community College (SCC) is now seeking to change all of that by introducing an absolute game changer (in my opinion) by offering “transfer admission guarantees”. What this means is that when students apply and are offered a place at SCC, they will also receive a conditional offer to enter 3rd year at one of the following US Universities & Colleges:

California State University Northridge

Eastern Washington University

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School

Montana State University

San Francisco State University

Seattle University

State University of New York at Oneonta

University of Oregon

University of Washington

Washington State University

The only condition associated with this transfer is that students must complete the Associate Degree at SCC with the required transfer GPA. The GPA requirements range from a 2.0 for transfer to the lower ranked options, to 3.6 for John Hopkins University, one of the world’s top 20 Universities

So, I hear you ask; “How does the SCC option compare financially to the average cost of a 4 year University Degree?” Well, SCC quotes on their website total fees of $24,000 per annum vs. $43,000 for the average all inclusive cost of study at a US University / College. Therefore the total saving across your first 2 years of study will be in the region of $40,000! Meaning you can buy one of these.

From what I can see, the SCC transfer guarantee is entirely unique, however I cannot imagine it will be for long as other Community Colleges and Universities see its popularity. Especially as the drive for both diversity and full fee paying students rapidly increases at US institutions.



UK university rankings

Depending on the country I am in, institution ranking can mean everything or nothing to students. It’s safe to say that in most cases rankings are a very important factor in deciding on a university, but it’s interesting to note that students often don’t understand what rankings actually mean and / or how they work.

Across the globe there are countless ranking systems, however today I would like to look at the UK system, which will commonly be either the Times or Guardian rankings. The Times occupies the world of academia and as such is typically respected due to research-focused criteria, whereas the Guardian table is largely based in student experience & satisfaction. For the average international student choosing to study in the UK I personally recommend the Guardian, though this is a personal choice that many may disagree with.

Once you pick a system you can begin to look at the rankings themselves. The first thing to consider is that each institution will have an overall ranking that amalgamates all course and faculty performance into one value, and a number of individual course rankings to measure how each individual programme stacks up against the competition. The majority of students will look at the former, when the latter may actually be more applicable to their decision.

Take this example, say you want to study BEng Mechanical Engineering; many students / recruitment agents will go straight to the rankings table and try to find the highest ranking University. For example, one desirably ranked option could be City University London – you think “wow, great overall ranking (21st in UK), great location and they offer BEng!” I will apply here!

Now, don’t get me wrong, City is an amazing University I would happily pay to study at / recommend. BUT you may be surprised to hear that, for example, Plymouth University, an institution you may never have considered, has a BEng Degree individually ranked 13th in the UK, despite their overall ranking being 61, much lower than City’s 21st overall and hence easy to overlook. But City’s BEng course happens to share 42nd spot with University of Bolton for BEng, who might I add occupy last place on the overall table at 120th

Therefore, before you simply look at the league tables (Guardian in this case), make sure you keep the above in mind. This will ensure you get the most relevant information to inform your study decisions.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for similar ranking information on Australia, USA & Canada!

Which study location is best for you?

Employers tell us the actual academic component of University education only accounts for a small percentage of graduate success. The dealmaker when it comes to obtaining your dream career is often the “extracurricular” experiences you have been exposed to.  Therefore I have decided to write a series of blogs titled “What to Study and Where” to ensure your degree is complimented with the best possible industry exposure.

This concept came to me last week while chatting with a student in Kazakhstan. This particular future international student was looking for a career in mining engineering, with dreams of studying in London, UK. This got me thinking – sure, there are great options in London but surely mining engineering should be studied somewhere with close proximity to a buzzing mining industry? Therefore – finance, yes, marketing, yes… But mining in London, I am not so sure…

Many students (like the above) focus on location when it comes to selecting a University and for the majority the dream usually includes locations such as London, Sydney, New York and Toronto. I can 100% understand the rationale behind this thinking, as the perceived value of a London Degree, for example, translates to prestige, quality and success. Most importantly it means you don’t need to explain where the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is every time someone quizzes you on your international qualification. But did you know that NMT graduates enjoy starting salaries higher than Universities such as Duke, John Hopkins and Amherst!

So, how do you make a decision? Obviously you need to consider programme relevant ranking, facilities and a combination of academic and industry staff experience / links. However in this upcoming series of blogs I am going to look at proximity to active industry and graduate starting salaries in order to determine where you should study your degree!

As a Mining Engineering student inspired this blog, the logical first step is to provide recommendations on where to study Mining Engineering related courses so expect an action packed blog shortly!

Oh and speak up in the comments section if you would like a specific area of study covered in this series and I’ll do my best to factor it in.



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With over 7000 Bachelor and Masters programmes delivered in English, 600+ internationally recognised Universities, 50 Universities in the top 200 – 2012 QS World Ranking , the lowest tuition fees on the planet (free in many cases) and simplified visa / work rights… It’s no wonder international students are flocking to countries such as Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden etc.

One country that has already adopted mainland Europe as a preferred destination is India. Indian students currently spend double on international education than the countries entire Higher Education budget! So, if there is one nationality out there who knows what’s hot and what’s not from an international education perspective, it’s them!

Take Germany for example, almost 2000 courses taught entirely in English, 67 accredited Universities and a massive 70% increase in Indian students since 2008, with total new enrolments at 5,998 for 2011/12. Not only do Indian students love Germany as a study destination, German institutions appear to love hosting them. One theory for this is the passion for Engineering & sciences that both Indian students and the Germans share.

But it doesn’t stop there, according to DAAD stats 20% of Indian students with strong academic track records also received funding towards their studies. Students can also work part time (180 half days per year) and apply with relative ease to seek full-time employment post-graduation. Just a few more boxes ticked on the average international student’s wish list!

Based on my experience in international marketing & recruitment it appears Europe has the potential to give traditional destinations i.e. USA, Canada, UK and Australia a run for their money. Well in the case of Europe, not much money at all – you better watch this space!