Do you need to learn more about recruiting/marketing to ESL students, but you don’t know where to begin?
This page provides a quick-reference guide of places where you can search for information about various markets, best practices, and other resources that you can check out as you build your international student recruitment plan.
Note: This is not a complete list of all websites, resources, and data out there that is related to our field; however, it contains many resources that we have found to be particularly helpful when building our recruitment strategy. If you have a suggestion about resources that should be included, please let us know!
- Institute for International Education (IIE)
- US Commercial Service (USCS)
- Study Travel Magazine
- The PIE News
- Social media
- Other online and print resources
IIE Open Doors
- International student data (all levels)
- This information does not focus solely on IEPs; however, trends of students coming to the USA to pursue degree programs are often useful for informing IEP administrators about where they should consider recruiting–especially considering the number of American IEPs that specialize in Academic English preparation.
- New numbers are normally released in November (corresponding with International Education Week).
- Data on ESL students, only
- Note: ESL student data tends to run about 2 years behind.
US Commercial Service (USCS)
Education and Training is considered to be the United States’ 7th largest export; as a result, the USCS has dedicated a team to promoting American educational services around the world. The team is led by Gabriela Zelaya (you have probably met her at NAFSA or other International Education events!).
- They publish a book: Education and Training Services Resource Guide – A Reference for US Educational Institutions. The 2017 version is available for download (click here).
- You can quickly download sections pertaining to specific countries that may be of interest to your IEP. They also provide paper versions at conferences (e.g., I received my paper version at the NAFSA annual conference), but they have a limited supply.
- Other services: The USCS offers several services to IEPs that want to expand into new markets; a menu of these services is available online at http://bit.ly/2bj1ujr.
- At conferences, the USCS most often promotes its Gold Key Service. Through this service, the USCS will set up meetings with potential business partners in local markets (e.g., they will set up meetings with overseas recruitment agents for IEPs). IEPs who use this service should still undergo their own vetting process with these agents in order to ensure a good fit, but Gold Key is useful in that it enables the USCS to ensure that the IEP representative is meeting with legitimate agents, while also adding some gravitas to the meetings (i.e., the weight of the local US embassy or consulate would be behind them).
This branch of the Department of State is dedicated to providing unbiased information to international students about the American education system.
- The EducationUSA website has a lot of great information, including fact sheets on specific countries, contact information for their advisors that are located around the world, and lists of education fairs and events that are happening overseas.
- Their website has a Recruitment Resources section. You can request a login in order to access these items.
- EducationUSA publishes the Global Guide, a free resource that provides terrific information about different regions and countries, their education system, the demand for US programs, the best time of year to recruit, local social media usage, etc. Each year’s Global Guide is typically released during the EducationUSA Forum in Washington, DC. The guide is also usually made available for free (for logged in users) on their website in the “Products Offered” page of the Recruitment Resources section.
- Their advisors have great information that can shed light on issues and trends in the local market. You can also apply to host advisors on your campus to learn about your programs and to offer professional development seminars for them.
- EducationUSA regularly sends out content to schools that can be “poached” (i.e., posted on the school’s social media accounts in order to promote some aspect of American education–thus ensuring fresh and useful content on their social media platforms).
- They are active in their own social media accounts; so, if you are active on Facebook or Twitter, you can follow what is going on at various advising centers and keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in their local areas.
Since beginning my career in international recruitment, I have appreciated EnglishUSA (formerly known as the American Association of Intensive English Programs, or AAIEP). Not only is this an organization that works hard to advocate for IEPs nationwide, but it also continually strives to provide practitioners with opportunities to share information, build knowledge, and learn ways to address the challenges facing our industry. Its listserv has helped many IEP administrators to ask questions related to all aspects of running IEPs, including marketing-related concerns. I have found that it is always a good idea to keep an eye on EnglishUSA discussions as they come across my email. The organization also has some great events during the year to promote networking and professional development–and they are all completely focused on IEPs.
NAFSA, of course, is a wonderful resource to anyone who wishes to learn anything about international education, including recruitment strategies. The organization also offers many training sessions and programs to help professionals to learn more about recruitment.
- NAFSA’s weekly newsletter gives information about trends and international education-related news that is happening in the USA and around the world.
- Every few years, NAFSA publishes its Guide to International Student Recruitment (full disclosure: I co-wrote “Chapter 16: Recruitment Strategies for Intensive English Programs” in the 3rd edition, 2017).
- NAFSA also has knowledge communities (KC) and member interest groups (MIGs), all of which have a forum. International recruiters for intensive English programs may be interested in joining the International Enrollment Management KC and the Intensive English Program MIG. Be sure to sign up for their forums. It’s a good way to get up-to-date information, see the types of questions that people are asking, and to engage with the community.
ICEF is probably best known for its agent workshops, where they connect educational institutions with recruitment agents; however, one of my favorite services offered by ICEF is its newsletter, the ICEF Monitor. It contains information about trends and news that affect our field, providing helpful context when considering an institution’s marketing strategy.
Study Travel Magazine
In my opinion, STM is pretty special; it’s the only publication that I know of that is 100% focused on international recruitment agents. STM conducts surveys and interviews among agents and institutions and uses that data to provide information on market trends, sharing information about the type of programs that students seek in various regions. In addition, while they do include advertising, it’s not so overwhelming that it eclipses editorial content. Each magazine is a good read. The magazine comes out monthly, with weekly news that is distributed by email.
The PIE News
The PIE (professionals in international education) News is an online resource that focuses solely on news and trends related to this sector. They have a regular newsletter, as well as a blog to which other professionals in the field are able to contribute. They actively share their content via Twitter (@ThePIEnews), as well, under #intled.
Other online and print resources
There are many other resources out there that are very helpful to recruitment professionals–some of which I have been referencing since back in my years as an undergraduate student that are still relevant today.
- An International Educator in Vietnam: This blog is run by Dr. Mark Ashwill, the former IIE country director of Vietnam. Having met him several times, I can comfortably say that I can’t think of anyone who knows the Vietnamese international education market better than he. Dr. Ashwill writes often about this subject, whether he is sharing information on his blog or commenting on trends and news via online publications. Definitely a blog worth following for those who are specifically interested in Vietnam.
- CIA World Factbook: This is a great at-a-glance resource to get basic data on a country–its economy, language, major political issues, communications infrastructure, etc. Though the information is in bullet points and not in significant detail, it provides information that can help the recruiter to build a context for a target market and that can inform one’s strategy.
- The Economist: This British newspaper is a weekly publication that is available in print and/or in an app format.
Several social media platforms can be very helpful to professionals who seek information as they build their recruitment strategy. Twitter and Facebook, in particular, have been helpful to me.
- Twitter is a great way to engage with our community of international educators. Certain hashtags, like #intled, #NAFSA, #NAFSA17 (to engage with users who are tweeting about the most recent annual conference), help to focus the user’s attention on information that is specific to his/her interests. In addition, you can follow specific accounts, like @NAFSA, @EUSAExecDirect, and pretty much every account that is related to the sources that are already listed on this page in order to see what others in our field are tweeting about. This is great because it helps the user to avoid the hassle of following the minutiae of the average Twitter user’s life and focus specifically on the online conversation and news that is being spread among like minds in our field.
- Facebook groups are also helpful. There are groups that exist solely to promote scholarships and sponsors in certain regions (e.g., “Friends of Iraqi Higher Education,” a group that is run by Lorna Middlebrough of the US Department of State). Other groups exist to bring together recruiters, such as the popular “Globe Trotters United” group, where recruiters and international admissions professionals discuss recruitment venues, market trends, travel challenges, and more.