February 14, 2013, by Katherine Lakeland

International insights: the challenges of changing student expectations

Vincenzo RaimoIn this guest blog, Vincenzo Raimo, Director of the University of Nottingham’s International Office, gives us his take on the challenges of changing student experiences in the international higher education arena. 

Don’t you just hate it when university and student leaders say ‘now that students are paying high fees’? Where have these people been for the last 30 years? It seems too easy to forget that international students studying in British universities have been paying fees since the 1980s. Part-time and postgraduate students have also been paying high fees for a very long time, irrespective of what country they come from. The kinds of issues around service which many universities are now facing have long been core for those of us working in international student recruitment. International student recruiters have had to be conscious of student expectations of service from well before they join our institutions, and the very real competition that exists for international students from both within the UK and worldwide. Until quite recently, at least within Russell Group universities, our counterparts working in the home market have had much less exposure to these kinds of demands.

International student recruiters have had to be very conscious that students’ experiences of our universities begin well before they join us. Unlike many of our home students, international students rarely get the chance to visit our campuses before they make their possibly-life-changing investment in our universities.

Among other things, we have to think about:

• how our actions in the recruitment process reflect on our universities and our ability to get our target prospective students to join us over our competition.

• how our prospectuses, which are often UK-focused, reflect on us internationally.

• how appropriate our application processes are and whether they take into account the differences in qualifications from around the world. (Almost all of our systems assume applicants come from a UK educational background.)

• how quickly we respond to enquiries and make decisions on applications.

• how appropriate our responses are to people who, by taking an undergraduate degree at our universities, are considering making an investment of possibly £80,000 or more.

International students need and deserve a level of personalised support and service commensurate with the level of investment they’re making by coming to our universities – not just in monetary terms, but in life chances, too.

We are now entering a new era for student experience. What international students want and need today, home students will expect tomorrow. And rather than spending good money on consultants to look at student experience in the light of higher tuition fees, institutions would do better to look to the in-house experts – the staff who recruit and support international students.

All of our students deserve to be treated equally well irrespective of where they come from or what kind of programme they are studying even if at times they need different levels of tailored professional support.

Vincenzo will be leading a workshop title ‘Working with agents’ at the International Higher Education Forum on 17 April 2013

 For further information please visit www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/InternationalHigherEducationForum and follow the debate on Twitter #CompetingGlobally

Posted in InternationalStaffStudents