Richard Coward, founder and CEO of China Global Education Services was invited to speak at the China Annual Education Conference 2014 in Beijing.
The annual education conference is the leading education conference in China, speakers including Jan O’Sullivan Minister of Education and Skills, Ireland. Fanta Aw, President of NAFSA, and international directors from top Chinese and International Universities.
Richard was on a panel with Li Bing, Director of International Office at Beijing Foreign Studies Universities, Chen Hweimei CEO of FICHET http://www.fichet.org.tw/, a Taiwanese organisation helping international students to study in Taiwan. Zhou Dong, CTO of CUCAS, Xiong Juan, COO of AT0086, Chinese organisations helping international students to study in China. The topic of the discussion was about how can Chinese Universities increase their international recruitment through developing their English language website.
“Britain and China have a lot of things in common and tea is one of those things, I learnt a lot about tea and became the first foreigner to pass the Chinese tea expert certificate in the tea market in Chinese. I fell in love with China, and had an amazing experience. I told my friends about my time in China and I helped a number of them study in China too. Helping more students connect with and experience China and benefit from the vast opportunities, in the way I did, is the central mission behind why the company was started.”
At the talk Richard spoke to Chinese Universities on how they can boost student recruitment. The basic outline is below.
How Chinese Universities can Boost Student Enrolment
by Richard Coward, CEO of China Global Education Services
Originally planning to be a lawyer, In 2010 Richard founded CGES as a side business, and it has grown and now cooperates with 15 top Chinese Universities. Including two of China’s only online education programs: BLCU and BFSU Online Law Programs.
There are three ways Chinese Universities can boost student enrollment:
2) Focus on Quality
3) International Partners
There are some basic ways Chinese Universities can improve their website. The first is that its important to keep it simple. Websites are essentially online brochures of the University and the programs, and its not necessary to do anything too complicated.
The recruitment process is according to the recruitment funnel. In order to improve recruitment its necessary to make the funnel larger at the top, and wider at the bottom. Build a larger input into the funnel, and increase the conversion rate. There are many ways to do this, but the most important aspect to improving the recruitment funnel and conversion rates is to start recording and measuring metrics. Record how much traffic, how many inquiries you are getting each month, how many applications and successful applications are easier to record. Once you have this set of figures, you can probably see immediate ways to improve it. If not, you can start to experiment on different ways to improve it, do tests, see how it affects the recruitment funnel.
The third point is that Chinese Universities should not have any Chinglish on their website. Research has shown that students will not trust a website if there are spelling mistakes. The text should read like a native English has written it, and so should be tested.
2) Focus on Quality
The most important point for Chinese Universities is that they need to focus on improving the quality of their programs and continually doing so, the website and online marketing should be secondary to this. Having a great website is great, but if the program is not as good as the website says, then there will be unhappy students. Conversely, if a program is great but the website is not as good, there will still be referrals from students and growing the program will not be as much of a problem.
Still there are a lot of foreign students particularly from developed countries who do not trust the quality of Chinese education, and there is also a belief among Chinese people that Chinese education is inferior to western education.
Chinese education has undergone huge changes and the Universities have only relatively recently been opening to international students. It will obviously take time for students to catch up with top Western Universities in International English programs and there will be some initial problems. Therefore it is necessary to be open minded and actively seek feedback from the students.
When focusing on quality it is important to understand what does a student want? And then how can it be improved? From our research we have identified three main areas that international students are looking for in their programs in China
- Learn / Growth
- Career / Internships
- Incredible Experience
For each of these I will give a way that it can be improved to help the international students.
For learning and growth, international students want to be challenged and they need to learn and grow. This is the point of coming to China. It is important that the curriculum and teaching is of high quality. One way this can be improved is to promote active discussion in class rather than receiving slideshow lectures. Foreign students are more likely to want to debate rather than listen to a students slideshow.
It is difficult to give many other specific ways that this can be improved because it varies by program. It also requires a long term investment and is not easy to implement, but due to the importance of this for international students should be of primary focus for Universities. To improve in this (and the other areas), it is a good idea to be open and actively ask students for their feedback on how this can be improved.
For Career and Internships. The perceived difficulty in getting a job after the program or internship is is one of the most important reasons that high quality students from developed countries don’t come to study in China. It is important not to forget that the most important aspect of education is the ability for a student to find a valuable place in the market place after graduation. It is therefore extremely important that Universities work with companies to help students to find internships and to help them to recruit students. Program curriculum should also be globally relevant so that it can provide value for students who wish to return to their home countries to find work.
For an incredible experience one way this can be improved is to be very welcoming when students first come to China. In terms of students experience, the first week is the most important because this is the time they make friends and get their first experience of China.
For international staff, it is sometimes difficult to imagine what it is like coming to China for the first time but if they have studied abroad perhaps they can understand better.
It is important for it to be welcoming experience for students. I have seen from students who had an incredible first week that they all went on to enjoy the program much more than those who did not settle in as well in the first week.
For best results it is necessary to address the concern of overall program quality, and these three most important needs of students in the marketing to address the core needs of the students.
3) International Partners
The third way that the University can increase their student recruitment is through forming international partners. This can be from University partners, exchange programs, or from organisations such as ours.
Advantages include their greater expertise in the local market, and ability to connect with local students and understand them better than staff located in China. It is also an advantage being able to connect with the students through website marketing and Facebook, Google, Twitter which can not be accessed easily in China.
International partners can also set up talks with students, and this is another key advantage, because one limitation of online marketing is that is only able to appeal to students who already have the idea about studying abroad, but for those who haven’t thought about it before, by speaking to them and giving talks in person, it is possible to demonstrate the opportunities to them more easily and widely.
There are also a number of other added benefits of having international partners, such as increasing brand visibilty, and we have helped to set up exchange programs and have brought other opportunities to our partner Universities like this.
So to summarise we have talked about the three ways Universities can recruit more studenys. First they can improve the website, to improve and track metrics, and to write without Chinglish.
Secondly is to focus on quality. What do the students want? Learn and growth, work, and a great experience. These should be addressed in marketing
The third is to expand through international partners, through Universities and organisations such as ourselves who have advantages in the target market and can provide market specific events, feedback and expansion.
For further details, contact or for cooperation contact Richard at www.cgeseducation.com