The Student Recruiters: Vinson Tam at QS 

SR interview

Following on from our conversations with Craig Dove and Anita Sandham, we’ve spoken to one of our very own student recruitment experts. Vinson Tam, Associate Director, Student Recruitment has been with QS since 2017.  

“My role focuses in helping universities develop in-country recruitment strategies, by assembling teams of local experts who understand the market and cultural differences to represent the university in a different country.” 

Discover his work experience and what challenges he is helping universities solve. 

Please can you take us through your work experience? 

It was 2008, almost 16 years ago – after returning from Australia for my undergraduate degree, I started off as a course counsellor in a leading private university in Malaysia. After four years, I switched industry, joining Samsung as a vertical sales specialist. After leaving Samsung in 2013, I was an entrepreneur running my own audio-visual solution company until I decided to return to the education industry and joined QS in 2017. 

Why do you like working in student recruitment and how did you get into it? 

I like working in student recruitment because heading to university is a big decision. I had developed a passion for helping students and their families choose the right study destination and institutions.  

With more than a decade’s experience of speaking with students and parents – and thousands of counselling sessions – I know that not everyone has the luxury of making wrong choices and starting all over again, from a financial standpoint. 

I was lucky enough to be able to do so as a student when I realised I signed up for a course that I wasn’t properly counselled on, and I had to make a switch. 

Do you have a favourite moment in your job? 

There are so many memorable moments, heartwarming and bizarre stories – but it always put a smile on my face when students and parents came to me and thank me for helping them make the right decision. The people and peers I have met over the years made me more convinced that this is the right industry – one that I love to work in. 

What are the current student recruitment trends you’re seeing?  

North America still remains the top study destination even though recent data from HESA, OpenDoors, Erudura and Office for Immigration has shown that the number of international students studying with North American universities has slowed down, versus other destination like the UK and Australia.  

While the concerns surrounding international student safety and being welcomed is always high, this has not stopped students from applying to North American universities, but student nationality diversification and current student testimonials will always be a strong voice in attracting new students. 

QS data shows that North American university enquiry teams are not currently meeting students’ expectations when it comes to responding to enquiries or communicating the results of applications.  

According to the QS International Student Survey 2023, almost two thirds of students interested in North America expect a complete and personalised response to an enquiry within three days. Lack of in-country representation in certain regions is also a gap – students are struggling to engage with universities beyond the usual communication channels. 

What challenges are the universities you work with facing? 

Changes in international student mobility policy are the biggest challenge for universities at the moment. Universities need to be agile and responsive when dealing with such changes. The access of information about studying abroad is easily obtained in today’s world and there’s fewer barriers for student mobility – the significant difference between study destinations is slowly disappearing. 

Universities would do well to offer reassurance of the country and institution’s welcoming environment for international students. Universities need to ensure they have strong support for international students, making the university and the city welcoming and safe for all students. These concerns have been highlighted in the QS International Student Survey. 

Developing countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa remain the key exporter of international students – with the current economic climate in many nations, being flexible with tuition fees payment options will be to the university’s advantage. 

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