Universities and Covid-19: Prudent advices for Universities on how to approach international promotion during the Covid-19 era

Most of the Higher Education institutions have international experiences. With Covid-19 the process of internationalization of universities finds itself in the midst of a large and long-lasting storm.

The problems related to Covid-19 mess up most of the plans. Closure of borders, closure of universities, distance learning, visa review are just a small example of the countless problems that have overwhelmed international education.

With “Covid-19 era” I mean that historical period that started in 2020 and whose direct and indirect effects will end in many years.

Before Covid-19, international opportunities grew spontaneously (I like to use the term organicly) and institutions approached them with enthusiasm because they saw internationalization as an occasion for growth and development.

The usual channels to promote internationalization can be summarized in the following list

  • Online (with a number of sub-sets)
  • International network of student recruitment agencies
  • International students fairs
  • Agreements with others complementary institutions
  • Agreements and dissemination at the representative offices of your country abroad
  • Network Alumni

Educational Internationalization in the Covid-19 era: PHASE 1

Universities can still choose different paths to promote an institution in the world. Today with Covid19, which shuffles the cards and upsets the markets, the first step to internationalize an institution is the use of the internet as a tool to understand and follow the rapid changes. Internet is a direct source of information on the potential of the markets. This kind of activity is usually summarized with the term: Business Intelligence.

This first step allows Universities to concretely and really measure the international trends in the educational sector.

We can divide the international online promotion into the following subsets :

  • SEM (paid online campaigns in search engines)
  • Social media (paid and unpaid)
  • Promotion in the International Portals used by students to choose where to study
  • SEO (organic positioning in search engines)
  • Content Marketing, production of informative content to improve visibility

Business Intelligence, in the Covid-19 era, will be a strategic channel. The active interpretation of data from the internet allows Universities to collect a large amount of information on the potential of the international market. Thanks to Business Intelligence universities can understand the areas where the interest is greates. Without traveling, in a fast way, it is possible to start the student recruitment process , talking to students from a distance, getting to know them and understanding their common characteristics.

This process, gradually refined and deepened, allows universities to progressively focus from continents to individual states, to its regions, cities and specific areas. The actions of digital marketing allow us to quickly understand the changes in the market. The universities that use business intelligence will be able to know about the changes and will be able to act accordingly. Being in contact with the real world, through Big Data, to read the very rapid changes taking place. For these universities, Covid-19 can represent an opportunity for growth.

Educational Internationalization: what to do with the channels of Phase 2?

As mentioned, therefore, thanks to the internet it is possible to approach the market remotely, this feature becomes strategic in the post Covid-19 era. The remote cognitive phase allows to make wise choices for Phase 2. Phase 2 in fact necessarily involves the use of traditional channels. Here is a list:

  • International network of student recruitment agencies
  • International students fairs
  • Agreements with other complementary institutions
  • Agreements and dissemination at the representative offices of your country abroad
  • Alumni Network
  • Targeted international school orientation

Based on the first results obtained with PHASE1, it is then possible to plan the actions of PHASE2 which concern many recruitment channels, including traditional ones. These actions involve traveling, moving, comparing and meeting. These typologies are costly in economic and temporal terms and must therefore be focused on the areas that PHASE 1 has allowed to identify. Does it still make sense for a university to invest in this type of activity in the post-covid era? these channels have adapted themselves. Fairs have gone virtual, agents use online channels to promote etc. etc. In reality the traditional channels almost no longer exist, in the sense that they themselves have been updated and modernized.

Changes always bring successes and failures. Many of the initiatives linked to these channels could disappear, other initiatives could be very successful. To learn more about this concept, I suggest reading Scott Galloway’s recently released book POST CORONA From Crisis to Opportunity.

In my opinion, The best choice, once again, can be made thanks to Business Intelligence.

At this point the most important questions remains: Should study programs adapt to the post covid-19 era? do universities need to offer programs in a new way? The answer is obviously yes. But to make this change, universities must once again use the same tool: business intelligence. In my next post I will explore this topic.

Suggestions, comments and criticisms are always welcome!

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Alberto Cecchi

Educational Consulting, international academic relations. Researcher in the new media, design and social media. Specialties: 15 years of experience as Lecturer at the Universities of Urbino and Perugia, Multimedia Design and Computer Science. Author of Books and Articles about Design, New Media, Internet Security Education (History of Cryptography).

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