The Monash approach to student marketing and recruitment

International student recruitment has always played a prominent role in Australia, both socially and economically – and with looming policy changes, that role is about to become even bigger.

The federal government’s proposed deregulation of fees has forced universities to reassess their approach to funding models. As a result, international student recruitment has become a dominant player in the way universities can source additional revenue in a changing market.

International Education is currently Australia’s highest earning service export, with data from Australian Department of Education for the year ending June 2014 indicating a 12 per cent increase in enrollments; compared with the same period in 2013.

While this recent growth is encouraging, it highlights just how competitive the market has become. Now more than ever, universities need to refine their international student recruitment strategies in order to boost numbers and remain viable.

Monash University is one institution that appears to have gotten the approach right when it comes to marketing for international students.

By adopting a non-traditional ‘student centric’ strategy, they have seen both their domestic and international student enrollments increase dramatically over the last 12 months.

We recently chatted to David Buckingham, Vice President of Marketing and Communications and student recruitment at Monash University who shared a few tips about why their strategy has worked and how it translated directly into ROI:

Put the student at the heart of everything you do

A big factor in Monash’s success is their ability to make the student the centre of interest in the whole marketing process. David says the core of this student centric approach is asking the questions: what does the student need, what does the student want, what is the student looking for; and then figuring out how to meet those expectations.

Invest in new channels

It’s old news that in order to reach the ‘digital student’ institutions must engage with them in the new channels they are active on. But this is sometimes easier said than done in an environment where traditional approaches are favoured rather than embracing the ‘new.’

David says in a rapidly changing environment embracing digital marketing and its associated techniques is vital to any student marketing strategy.

“The way that we go to market is rapidly changing. Since Monash has started investing in new channels and techniques, such as social media; we are in fact finding that what may have applied years ago is no longer relevant. It is a new style of approach to marketing and communication,” David says.

Change your mindset

Monash’s change to a new marketing approach began with shifting their focus from institutional preoccupations to student needs and orientation. This meant bringing in an external orientation that required a different mindset, a different way of thinking about the market, a different way of thinking about needs and adjusting accordingly.

“The capacity to do this effectively goes right to the heart of the cultural agenda that modern day institutions have to be clearly on top of if they want to be effective,” says David.

Train your staff

It may sound straight forward, but no change in strategy will work if the staff are not on board. David says its important staff are equipped with an understanding of all elements of the strategy, and the tools needed to action changes.

When transitioning to a student centric marketing approach, Monash put in place specific training, mentoring and support programmes to ensure their staff were up to date will what was happening.

“We see it as important that staff know they’re not dealing with the unknown and they can actually engage and experience. Understanding that often means brining people in from a non-university background to assist in the mindset and orientation that the new methods and approaches require,” he says.

David will be presenting at the upcoming International Student and Marketing Conference later this year.

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