Student Enrollment

Student recruitment in a post-COVID world

COVID-19 brought a myriad of changes in the higher education sector across the globe. Student recruitment became tougher, and universities had to move beyond traditional strategies to attract and recruit students. These strategies helped them adapt to the changing trends and optimize their lead conversion processes, and most of them are here to stay. Learn more about them in this blog.

While students were aspiring to move abroad and start a new chapter, the pandemic disrupted their plans. Many deferred their admissions, canceled their plans to study overseas, or changed their university or course preference. With the pandemic waning and the restrictions easing, the number of study abroad aspirants is rising as predicted. However, universities will continue to face challenges in recruiting and retaining prospective students. Education agents believe that the pandemic has changed the perspectives of students and parents concerning overseas education. They are majorly looking for financial aid, high ROI, etc. Therefore, from online recruiting to carefully analyzing a student funnel, universities must evaluate their recruitment strategies again.

changing expectations after the pandemic

SOURCE: 2021-INTO Agent Survey

What are students looking for in a college?

The expectations of study abroad aspirants have drastically changed. Now, students are majorly focusing on the cost of education, return on investment, and safety. Institutions are likely to witness the following factors determining students' study abroad decisions in 2022.

  • Tuition and living costs influence students' decisions- Students are giving high importance to tuition fees and the cost of living in a country. As per a recent survey report, more than half of the students searched for programs with an annual tuition fee of $30,000 or less. They are either unwilling or unable to pay high fees. While many students rely on scholarships and loans, they are also considering alternative destinations to make studying abroad affordable.
  • The shift towards hybrid learning- Study abroad aspirants are looking for hybrid learning options for the flexibility it offers. According to The WorldGrad, 72% of the Indian students surveyed are willing to opt for hybrid programs to save costs without compromising the education quality they desire.
  • Post-study work opportunities are in demand- International students not only want to study in a good country or university but also want to stay there and work after completing their studies. Therefore, the demand for post-study work opportunities is only going to rise in 2022.
  • Students inclined toward campus diversity- This will be one of the most important factors to consider. A diverse system allows students to interact with people from different walks of life and backgrounds, which helps enhance their experience in an institute while also boosting the student success rate. Besides, this also mitigates the chances of students experiencing cultural shocks—a win-win.
  • Some popular degrees post-pandemic- While business degrees have always caught study abroad aspirants' eyes, a shift is being witnessed post-pandemic. Around 78% of students out of 1250 agree that the pandemic has shifted their decision on studying a particular subject. The demand for pursuing healthcare is surging, with 17% of the students inclined to avail degrees in this field. Similarly, with the change in the job landscape, 24% of students are interested in advanced technologies, opting to study areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, etc.

Enrolment strategies post-COVID-19


Institutions are exploring new technologies and processes to streamline student enrolment.

As the education system evolves, new ways of admissions and recruitment are emerging. Some of them are listed below-

  • Managing multiple admissions funnel- Gone are the days when students and parents went only through traditional media recommendations for colleges. The pandemic opened the gates for virtual recruitment and admissions, thereby creating various student funnels. Therefore, there are leads from multiple sources, including digital recruitment, offline admissions, in-country partners, and others, which need to be managed parallelly.
  • Partnering with student ambassadors- Institutions are reaching out to alumni and current students to connect with aspirants at an emotional level through storytelling. These university students host workshops, presentations, etc., for the prospective students, guiding them right from when they enquire till they become a part of the institution.
  • Virtual events on the rise- While there is a surge in physical recruitment fairs, institutions are also focusing on creating memorable virtual experiences for prospective students. From organizing virtual campus tours to webinars, universities are leaving no stone unturned to convert a prospective lead.
  • Peer-to-peer chat is here to stay- It is imperative for institutions to nurture communications and engage with aspirants to understand their goals, fears, etc. Informing students about what the university has to offer and being transparent helps institutions gain their trust. To keep up, recruitment professionals are moving toward using CRM systems that can help them reach their target audience at the right time to enhance the chances of admissions.
  • Implementing new technology and processes- Data plays a major role in a student's recruitment and admissions lifecycle. Therefore, institutions need to integrate data analytics and other technologies to make their processes smooth. The available data can help universities develop a streamlined approach for a student's lifecycle by providing them with useful insights.
  • Diverse marketing strategies- The shift to the digital world has made institutions rethink their marketing strategies and make necessary adjustments. Institutes need to consider online advertising, content marketing initiatives, social media marketing, etc., to reach a wider audience and be at the top of the game while recruiting students. They can consider the countries for student recruitment, identify the cultural differences, and put out personalized messages based on their findings.

New emerging markets for student recruitment

The biggest student enrolment markets have always been China and India. However, universities need to look beyond traditional sources for student recruitment to inculcate diversification.


SOURCE: Studyportals and Unibuddy-The Next Frontiers- Diversifying Student Recruitment.

Various emerging markets have the potential to become significant contributors toward uniform student enrolment. There is a push post-pandemic for institutes to alter their diversification strategies and maintain a balance in student enrolments by tapping into these territories.

As per ICEF Monitor, the first tier of emerging markets includes Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Columbia, and Nigeria. The second tier comprises countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal, Egypt, and Kuwait.

These markets have been identified based on their impact on student mobility and other attributes that are enhancing outbound growth. These attributes include a large youth population (15-24-year-olds) that is well aware of the growth prospects and eager to study abroad. Moreover, the expanding middle-class consumer market in these countries is looking for better education opportunities, which will invariably drive the recruitment processes of competing international institutions.

The income disparity and GDP growth in these countries will also play a significant role in setting the foundation for recruiting students.

What the future looks like?

As per Holoniq, the international education market is expected to reach $433 billion in 2030 with a CAGR of 7.4%. This would bring in new opportunities and challenges. While the market is substantially growing, recruitment professionals need to implement new-age technology and streamline processes for recruiting students effectively. Besides integrating technology, diversification will also be a major aspect of institutions’ recruitment strategies. Colleges are covering every nook and cranny to diversify international student admissions and create a more inclusive student body and campus.


Yogita Lalwani

Content Specialist

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