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Modern marketing: How digital marketing can help UK universities attract international students.

Britain’s universities are working hard to attract international students. With the government announcing British Universities are to expect a £950 million cut in funding over the next 3 years, higher education institutions need to look elsewhere for financial support. The average non-EU student tuition fees for arts and science undergraduate degrees are around £10,000 per year, and with the potential to reach £20,000 depending on the course and establishment, the financial benefits for cash-strapped UK universities to recruit international students is obvious.

Having a strong online presence is vital. Statistics show that 31.7% of the 338 million Internet users in China are students. It is likely that students already look to the Internet as their primary source of information on UK universities. Here are a few steps universities can take to ensure they target the right market and usability is optimised:

Identify key phrases specific to the target market. Incorporating them into the site will vastly improve SEO. Oban Multilingual SEO/SEM found that in China, for example, great importance is placed on the prestige of the university. Therefore it would be beneficial to feature a section on the university’s ‘ranking’ – a popular search phrase for Chinese students.

Localised research will give an insight into what students are looking for. A prominent London university points out that whilst business, law, and economics degrees are popular with their Chinese students, performing arts, media and psychology degrees are the chosen topics for Japanese. Marketing the subjects that are more likely to be popular within a nationality is more likely to bring ROI.

Social network sites are an effective way to market to potential international students. A vast majority of SNS users are young people (aged 16-24). Again, it is important to keep in mind the locality of the market. Although Facebook and Twitter maybe the initial SNS that spring to mind in the UK, in China www.renren.com is popular with the student demographic.

Although Britain is currently second only to the USA in attracting overseas students, the competition is growing. France, Singapore and Germany are just a few of the countries who have employed strategies to attract potential international students, and with recent and upcoming changes to the UK’s student visa policy, it is more important than ever for the UK’s higher education institutions to up their stakes in international marketing. The key to their success is to embrace modern technological advances.