International Education – Experience of Students and Stakeholders

International Education: Experience of Students and Stakeholders – Quality, Marketing and Customer Journey.

Summary of minor research dissertation for Master of Education (Education & Training) awarded in 2002 by Victoria University, Melbourne, related to international education according to former international students and stakeholders leading to a cyclical quality and marketing paradigm.

What is the experience of international students and stakeholders?

International Student Experience (Image copyright Pexels)

Proportionally less funding due to ageing permanent populations and workforces competing for state resources compelled universities and education institutions to attract full fee paying international students to both make up budget short falls, support tax base and subsidise domestic students; temporary immigration to balance government budgets.

Australia has been very successful in attracting students from the Asian region, especially India and China, with commensurate calls for more diversity e.g. students from Europe and Africa.  While quality and marketing are strongly related, research into these factors can assist in more systematic and informed marketing, especially through qualitative insights as opposed to interpretation of solely quantitative data.

Existing research is generally restricted to state sponsored surveys of general student population and institutional level students, already on campus.  Good research should use qualitative techniques e.g. grounded theory, to allow issues or concerns of students and stakeholders emerge without prescribing factors restricting and limiting insight.

Qualitative research methods can achieve validity, simplicity or utility and reliability of factors to be evaluated in international education at the institutional, faculty of course level as part of quality and marketing system.  According to an international education researcher:

“‘If they don’t like our courses, they wouldn’t come would they? I haven’t heard anyone complaining, have you?’

Attitudes such as these, though seldom voiced loudly or publicly, may be covertly present in many higher education institutions. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that all too many institutions see overseas students solely or mainly in financial terms they are also an important educational resource, bringing fresh perspectives to our culture and are by no means simply a lucrative nuisance to be tolerated”

Already we are observing how globalisation exemplified by increasing mobility for travel, study, work and life leads to more competition or choices for international students.  Accordingly, institutions whether international and/or domestic, need to satisfy stakeholders through feedback, comparison and improving performance or quality; not waiting for state sponsored surveys.

To achieve consistent quality of value creation and delivery to the customer, sustained research and feedback from intermediate and final customers is required.  Without ongoing internal and systematic market, social and education research there is a danger of institutions, especially large, losing touch with students and stakeholders therefore not delivering a quality service; thus compromising their survival.

For related articles see Andrew Smith’s profile on Academia.

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International Student Information Seeking Journey – Overview

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

 

Background and Overview

 

‘We have all these enrolled international students on campus showing success in our marketing, communications and financial ROI, yet we don’t know how they got here and what they think of their study experience?’ (Paraphrasing an anonymous university Marketing Manager, 2008).

Significant research has been conducted regarding international student marketing and recruitment identifying ‘why’ students make study purchase decisions, and return on investment (ROI) but not ‘how’ they reached their decision, or what was their information seeking behaviour?  Knowing and understanding this behavioural dimension can inform and improve marketing and communication strategies in the digital era.

 

Research Proposition:

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

The international education and related service industries, generally know and understand the factors of ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind purchase decisions, but not the actual information seeking behaviour in a now digital environment.

 

However, by learning and knowing ‘how’ on consumer or student behaviour, a model or a template can be developed for marketing and communications strategy, and skills required to access prospective students in a digital age.  This can lead to more informed and effective marketing practices, strategies, and evaluation of ROI based upon deeper understanding of the information seeking phase and value of related channels or media.

 

International Students and Customers – Important Marketing Resources

All students and stakeholders have much market intelligence and expertise through their experience with education, accordingly they are an active, informed and valid source for research and feedback on the sector, to offer insight into not just what latent factors help students make decisions, but how, in a dynamic environment.

Further, a previous research study led to a cyclical marketing paradigm representing the process for students and stakeholders, from information gathering through the education experience.  Then students and alumni becoming ‘influencers’ as peers to attract new students at start of the cycle again, through both ‘word of mouth’ WOM and online.

This cyclical construct also resonates with the research literature in marketing, consumer behaviour and information seeking, represented by a process or time line of interaction and communication.

 

Digital Marketing Customer Journey in International Education

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

Abstract of dissertation submitted for the MBA programme

The Business School, University of Roehampton, U.K.

Using the inductive approach of qualitative research to explore and highlight key factors in student information seeking for purchase or future study decision-making, then to inform marketing communications strategy and related practice, in international education and business.

(Image copyright Pexels)

The inductive approach or mixed research methods were used, both quantitative and qualitative, to explore international education marketing according to stakeholders, management and students; a process of triangulation.

The research uses a streamlined version of grounded research methods to elicit key factors from international education sector stakeholders, based upon a purchase decision-making continuum or cycle.  Following was development of a data collection instrument to quantify the factors highlighted according to dimensions or phases of education purchase objectives, information seeking, analysis and post purchase review.

The sample, although not statistically significant, was a culturally diverse cohort of online MBA students, able to offer insight into their attitudes, allowing triangulation with research and industry based literature, and key marketing stakeholder feedback.

A marketing and communications construct was developed, reflecting the process of purchase decision-making through phases with focus upon information seeking, word of mouth (WOM), new digital behaviours and how to approach in the workplace or industry.

A dynamic and ongoing strategy and system review is required according to how customers or students seek information.  This is through ongoing investigation or consulting process that mirrors similar cyclical processes including review or testing of marketing message and communication targeting.

The process developed can be applied to marketing and communications strategy or system development, with broader application to investigation and review in the workplace.  This allows empowerment and motivation of personnel, customers and stakeholders, through their input to ground the same strategies, systems or processes, for validity and reliability, increasing value.