For the last few months, the team at QS has been running webinars discussing the motivations of students from different regions who are looking to study internationally. The aim of these webinars is to offer advice to university marketers on how they can best promote their institution to applicants from specific countries. This week the focus was on China, the largest exporter of international students in the world.
We had a lot of great questions and input from those who attended the webinar, but due to time constraints we weren’t able to answer all the questions in the Q&A at the end. We’ve compiled and answered some of the most common and interesting questions here, but if you’re looking for a more in depth picture, do download the full report.
Is the number of Chinese students studying abroad going down?
China is the largest exporter of international students, and there doesn’t seem to be any solid data suggesting those numbers are decreasing. However, the Chinese government is putting into place a number of higher education reforms aimed at keeping talented students within the country, and that coupled with the emergence of regional educational hubs could lead to a decline in the number choosing to study further afield.
To counteract this, universities need to promote exactly what their institution offers that students would be unable to find closer at home.
Are students looking to improve their chances of finding work abroad, or back in China?
Among the students we engaged with, almost all were intending to return to work in China, either immediately or after a short period of working abroad. However, they were often very keen to gain some work experience alongside their studies, through internships, part-time jobs or placements – and they often said they wanted more information about the opportunities available in this respect.
Financial arrangements are an issue for students everywhere, including China. However, we found this tended to feature lower down on students’ priority list than in some other regions. Chinese students were first and foremost interested in the quality, reputability and usefulness of courses – and especially the employment outcomes they could expect – and tended to consider finance after these main criteria.
Does the ‘brand’ of a country affect its appeal to Chinese students? Is there a pattern to which countries they choose and which degrees they do there?
We generally found that Chinese students are attracted to those countries which are reputable for having strong higher education systems. The US, for example, which gathers the majority of international Chinese students, is well known globally for the quality of its leading universities, as is the UK – another popular destination. Financial and technological hubs were also desired destinations, e.g. Silicon Valley, London, New York.
If your institution is not particularly well known, or if you are located in a smaller country, the best way to attract Chinese students is by promoting what you can offer them. Create a brand identity around subjects your institution excels in, form links with other universities, display the prowess of your teaching staff, and show how your graduates stand out in the employment market back in China.
What is the best way to connect with prospective students digitally, given the social media controls in China? QQ & QZone
The most effective way is to connect with Chinese students on the social platforms most popular in the country, such as QQ and QZone. Take a look at this recent article we wrote, covering the most popular social media platforms in countries which restrict the use of Facebook and Twitter.
For students looking for information about higher education, WeChat and ChaseDream were also very popular tools. It’s worth investing time setting up profiles on all of these social networks, to maximise your chances of attracting applicants.
Non-digital channels are also still a very good investment and highly prized by Chinese students, and this is a trend we’ve noticed globally. Our recent “Students Online” report found that student fairs, events and face to face meetings were all listed as good methods of communication with prospective students.
To attend our other webinars, sign up for our mailing list – the next one will provide an overview of the insights we’ve gained from focus groups with students in key markets around the world.