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Political turbulence and the resulting effect on the decline of international student enrollment and revenue is the new normal for many higher education institutions in the U.S. The financial pains are severe with the loss of four years of tuition at the bachelor's-degree level.



For 2016/17, new enrollment of undergraduate international students declined by 2.9% or nearly 3,400 students. This translates into a potential revenue loss of US$342 million over four years at the rate of US$25,000 tuition fee. This loss is only going to balloon as the new enrollment is expected to decline for 2017 and 2018.

The loss of revenue has already started shaking-up a segment of universities which lack national rankings and/or location advantages. Pittsburgh State University, Wright State University and Eastern Kentucky University are a few which are laying off staff citing decline in international student enrollment as one of the primary reasons. Some universities like Eastern Michigan University are responding by offering in-state tuition to international students--an effective discount of 60 percent in tuition. 

If innovation is defined as creating value within constraints, then international recruitment and enrollment strategies are in dire need of it. I will be chairing a session at NACAC Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, UT on "Innovative Strategies for Diversifying and Expanding International Undergraduate Enrollment" on Thursday, September 27, 1:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Expert panel:
• Terence Peavy, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
• Anna Esaki-Smith, Director of Global Outreach at UC Berkeley Extension
• Morgan Volkart, Vice Provost, Western Region and International Recruitment at Lehigh University

This interactive session will illustrate the importance of innovative mindset and identify a set of good practices with a focus on what works and what doesn't in diverse institutional contexts.
- Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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In my article, "China and India: Understanding Market Characteristics for Online Recruitment", published in 2009 in NAGAP Perspectives, I advocated that to maximize the return on investment, graduate schools must embrace online recruitment as one of the channels for international student recruitment. The key rationale was that the student-decision-making process was rapidly moving towards a more self-directed search-behavior supported by peer-to-peer based on online communication and social networks.



Today, we are at an inflexion point where online recruitment is moving from one of the recruitment channels to first and the most important channel for attracting and enrolling international students. This is what I refer to as “digital-first” strategy of international recruitment.

The impact of megatrends indicate that future international recruitment strategies must innovate and adapt to the competitive environment and shifting student behavior. This competitive environment becomes more evident from the recent international graduate enrollment trends and differences by the Carnegie Classification of universities (Table 1).

In 2016, 346,745 international graduate students formed 19% of total graduate enrollment of 1,839,104 students. However, there is significant skew by institutional type. Doctoral Research Universities with Very High activity enrolled two-third of all international graduate students in the U.S. These universities also cornered much of the enrollment growth—both domestic and international. Between 2010 and 2016, Doctoral Research Universities with Very High activity experienced a growth of 55% in international graduate student enrollment as compared to 10% for Doctoral Research Universities with High activity.

In sum, American graduate schools are increasingly reliant on international student for sustaining enrollment goals. However, not all schools have the budgets and brands to sustain the new competitive environment. This makes it very important for graduate schools to innovate and adopt recruitment strategies that are not only cost-effective but allow for targeted outreach in line with student behavior. This is where digital-first marketing strategy plays a critical role. Success of many institutions will depend on how quickly and effectively they innovate and adopt digital-first strategies to the new environment of the Third Wave.

Edited excerpt from original article published with NAGAP Perspectives (Summer 2018).
- Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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The diplomatic and political tussle between Saudi Arabia and Canada is going to disrupt the lives and educational ambitions of Saudi student. It will also hurt enrollments of Canadian universities hosting Saudi students. This political turbulence is characteristics of the Third Wave of international student mobility which has already affected the UK with Brexit and the US with the Presidential elections.

Students from Saudia Arabia formed 3.15% of total international student enrollment in Canadian universities and colleges according to UNESCO data of 2017.

Top-10 Source Countries of International Students to Canada

Int'l Students in CanadaEnrollment
China60,936
India19,905
France15,603
United States8,355
Nigeria5,982
Saudi Arabia5,979
Korea, Rep.4,743
Iran, Islamic Rep.3,735
Pakistan2,658
China, Hong Kong2,076
Source: UNESCO (2017)

International Enrollment Trends of Saudi Arabian Students


YearSaudi Students
Abroad
% Increase
201785,2770%
201685,288-1%
201586,2232%
201484,17712%
201374,85516%
201264,37825%
201151,352-
Source: UNESCO

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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Global competition for international students is becoming intense. Institutional strategies that align with student segments and deliver on the promise of value for money will become the key differentiators of institutional success. This is the key message of my article "Recalibrating value for money for international students" published in University World News. Given below is an excerpt.


How do we define value for money? The relatively simple and universal definition of “value for money” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “reasonableness of cost of something in view of its perceived quality”.

However, “value for money” is a contested and complicated concept in the context of higher education as the perspectives of various stakeholders – students, faculty, administrators and policy-makers – differ substantially. If defining the value for money of higher education is difficult, then demonstrating value for money is an even bigger challenge.

However, students are becoming aware of the changing policy environment of higher tuition fees and lower government funding. In this competitive environment, universities must not only define their value for money but also map it to the best-fit segment of international students.

International student decisions to study abroad are influenced by several variables at the individual, institutional and country level. However, international students can be placed on a spectrum of varying abilities and expectations, with ‘Bargain-hunters’ on one end and ‘Experience-seekers’ on the other end.

Bargain-hunters are driven by how to minimise costs (tuition and living expenses) and maximise financial returns in terms of work opportunities during and after the programme. They are less constrained by a city’s location as long as it offers lower costs or higher prospects of work. This segment is highly sensitive to changes in tuition fees and immigration policies. Bargain-hunters are the segment of students who are highly affected by the unfavourable immigration policies of the Third Wave.

Experience-seekers are motivated by the lived experiences and social recognition that comes with studying abroad. As a result, location and safety matter to them. They are less sensitive to cost and immigration policies as compared to Bargain-hunters. Many Experience-seekers intend to go back to their home country and do not necessarily want to work in the destination country.

While not all international students can be defined in this framework, it does provide a way to conceptualise the diversity of the international student body and how institutional strategies must adapt to them to offer maximum value for money.

Global competition for international students is becoming intense. Yet, innovation and adoption of institutional strategies that align with student segments and deliver on the promise of value for money will become the key differentiators of institutional success.

Related links:
The future of international student mobility
Three waves of international student mobility
Demonstrating value for money
Value for money: the student perspective
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Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced the names of six Institutions of Eminence (IoE) with the overarching goal of institutions achieving global rankings and the status of world-class universities. Here is an excerpt from "The tough road to academic excellence" originally published in the Hindu with Philip G. Altbach with a focus on India's richest man--Mukesh Ambani’s "greenfield" Jio Institute.



The Institute faces significant challenges which includes clarity on the basic organising principle. How does it plan to differentiate itself from other universities in India and abroad, and at the same time match up to the best academic practices elsewhere? While the Reliance empire is the largest private business in India, the cost of creating a competitive world-class university is daunting especially when starting from scratch. For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Saudi Arabia, established in 2009, spent $1.5 billion on its facilities and has an endowment of $10 billion for a current enrolment of 900 master’s and doctoral students.

While each world class university is unique there are three essential ingredients: talent, resources, and favourable governance. These will of course be necessary for all the IoEs. But let us focus on the specific needs of Jio Institute since, in our view, it faces the greatest challenges. We have mentioned resources already (a daunting challenge), especially since no public funds will be made available to Jio or the other private institutions. Let us focus on talent (faculty and students) and governance.

Faculty are at the heart of any university, affecting every aspect of realising and implementing the university mission. In the case of rankings ambition, research output is a key metric. So, attracting top research-oriented academic talent will not only require financial resources to pay faculty at global compensation rates but also providing an attractive quality of life for their families on and off campus. Would Karjat be able to provide an ecosystem of soft and hard infrastructure critical for attracting the best international talent?

Student demand for quality education in India remains strong, and the Reliance brands and an innovative curriculum would make it relatively easy to attract top students. However, the real challenge would be in attracting international students. International student decision-making process is complex, with many global choices available to the best students. For example, an “institute” does not command as strong a recognition among international students and faculty as a “university.” Can the Reliance, Ambani or Jio brand impress the global market and influence student choice towards India and the institute?

A positive element of the IoE programme is the high degree of autonomy and freedom from government policy and regulatory constraints. However, Jio (and the others chosen for IoE) need to have creative ideas for the organisation and governance of the institution. For example, to what degree would the decision-making process be collaborative with faculty involvement as compared to a top-down mandate? Traditional corporate management styles do not align with the governance expectations of a creative university.

Building world-class universities is a resource-intensive and highly creative endeavour which will be a test of patience and persistence. Indian higher education is in dire need of exemplars of excellence. Jio must align resources, talent (faculty and students) and governance for achieving global rankings and reputation.
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Public-private partnerships are becoming critical for US higher education. I moderated a panel discussion of leaders from universities and pathway providers to identify some of the best practices for building successful public-private partnership for international enrollment growth and diversification. Given below is the panel of university and its pathway partner:
  • Ed Feser, Provost & Executive Vice President, Oregon State University 
  • John Sykes, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President North America, INTO University Partnerships 
  • Gayle Nunley, Director Global Educational Initiatives, University of Vermont 
  • Emily Williams-Knight, Managing Director, Study Group 
  • J. Tyler Hart, Chief Development Officer, Richard Bland College (RBC) of William & Mary
  • James Applegate, Senior Academic Advisor, Navitas North America 
  • Jim Burkee, Executive Vice President, Concordia College New York 
  • Jose Flores, Managing Director, Kings Education 
This panel discussion took place at P3EDU, an invitation-only event hosted by George Mason University to bring together a select group of leaders to network and share best practices around public-private partnerships in higher education including international recruitment.

It relates to the NAFSA commissioned research report I led on the landscape third-party pathway partnerships and the reasons reported by international education professionals for considering to partner or not. In this report, I mapped 45 higher education institutions with eight third-party providers and conducted a survey of international education professionals to discover their perceptions on the reasons for partnering or not with third-party providers.

Honor to moderate this panel discussion on public private partnerships for #internationalstudent recruitment and pathways.
While there are challenges, opportunities are even more. #highereducation #p3edu #intled #GlobalEd pic.twitter.com/peOvKWxHUR
— Rahul Choudaha, PhD (@DrEducationBlog) April 4, 2018
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Inside Higher Ed ran a series on the evolution of third-party pathway programs for international student recruitment in the US. This comprehensive and incisive reporting by Elizabeth Redden looks into multiple dimensions related to this complex and evolving topic. It relates to the NAFSA commissioned research report I led on the landscape third-party pathway partnerships and the reasons reported by international education professionals for considering to partner or not.

The article highlights that "Colleges have turned to the third-party pathway model for one main reason: to grow the population of full-pay international students, and in turn the revenue they bring. "



This aligns with the findings of the report. Given below are the topic five reasons for partnering with third-party pathway provider as reported by 347 professionals from 261 institutions who attended NAFSA conferences are:
  • To access recruitment network of pathway provider 
  • To expand enrollment of international students at bachelor’s level 
  • To improve yield of international enrollment 
  • To make up for lack of in-house expertise 
  • To enhance diversity of international enrollment 

Top five reasons for not partnering are:
  • Fear of loss of academic standards 
  • Concern for loss of control of international admissions process 
  • University-governed intensive English program is working well 
  • Terms of contract (i.e., length and cost) 
  • Prefer to develop in-house expertise 
One specific aspect IHE series takes a deeper dive into is the intricate relationship between agents, pathway providers and institutions. "The growth of third-party pathway providers -- and of the private capital behind many of them -- has helped to create a more competitive and commercialized recruiting landscape."

I am quoted in the article about the institutional perspective of seeing value in a pathway provider who can bring capital and expertise to quickly ramp-up the enrollment. At the same time, changes in the source markets, competition and political climate are affecting the pathway programs themselves to create a scenario of "the great unknowns" to threaten the sustainability of the partnership over a long-term.


IHE Series on Pathway Programs


- Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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Conference theme for British Columbia Council for International Education (BCCIE) Summer Conference for 2018 is "Things we should be talking about in International Education." This theme prompts us to reflect on "what we think we are doing, and why, by poking holes in some of the assumptions embedded in International Education, by looking at things we are talking about, by suggesting things we should be talking about."


It asserts that "Our sector casts a long shadow and there may be other things we should be talking about:...our culling of the top economic strata from the global South’s burgeoning middle classes (our emerging markets) to fill our classrooms, quotas and coffers; our wilful ignorance of the demography and elitism of study abroad, building programs and pedestals for the 1% to springboard their careers. There are uncomfortable conversations to be had to be sure."

I am will be presenting a Thought Leadership session on "Preparing for the Impact of Megatrends on International Education." It will focus on the impact of megatrends on higher education institutions, especially in high-income countries, and how they approach global education strategies.

I am also honored to join a Global Issues Panel on emerging issues and solutions in internationalization of higher education with following leaders:

  • Randall Martin, Executive Director, BC Council for International Education (moderator)
  • Markus Badde, CEO, ICEF GmbH  
  • Darla Deardorff, Executive Director, Association of International Education Administrators 
  • Markus Laitinen, President, European Association for International Education

- Rahul Choudaha
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