Second only to China as a top sending country to the UK, Malaysia is an attractive but saturated market for international student recruitment. How do you get an edge on your competition? For us, the answer will always be proactive, personal student engagement. So then, how do you effectively engage students from Malaysia? We put our heads together with some in-country recruitment veterans to narrow down key trends in student interests, priorities and concerns that can help you better target your approach.
About the experts
Pete Ryan – Development Manager at the University of East Anglia – Pete managed recruitment across Southeast Asia starting in 2010 and developed UEA’s regional office in Malaysia, where he spent four years managing student recruitment, alumni relations and TNE partnerships.
Alicia Wan – Student Enrolment Adviser at UniQuest – Alicia spent a year working within an education agency, where she directly supported Malaysian students considering overseas education. She now manages all international student interest through the recruitment journey on behalf of one of our clients.
Recruiting in Malaysia
Whether you’re approaching prospective students via university partnerships or through direct channels, a targeted student engagement plan is key to conversion. Below are the experts’ top tips for growing that engagement.
Word spreads; make a good impression
‘Malaysia is a huge word-of-mouth market.’ says Pete. Taking the time to provide a good recruitment experience will go a long way towards drumming up referrals and meeting your recruitment goals.
Part of delivering a strong experience means getting personal. ‘Pick up the phone! Automation just doesn’t cut it. I will send personal follow-up emails every time I meet a new student.’ says Pete.
And, make sure you’re reaching students where they are. Alicia recommends including WhatsApp and Facebook in your communications mix. Malaysian students will communicate with agents via WhatsApp, so it’s a channel you don’t want to ignore.
Pete also found that getting the right people in front of prospective students made a big difference. Malaysian students really value face-time with academic staff. Pete would often organise talks for his academic colleagues to drive engagement among his prospective students.
Build relationships with parents; they make the decisions
Parents expect to be involved in the recruitment process with their children. Alicia makes calls daily to our clients’ prospective students and she spends a lot of her time talking directly with parents during her conversations with Malaysian students. ‘When I call Malaysian students, they will ask me to talk to their parents.’ says Alicia.
Ultimately, parents will drive the decision. UniQuest analyses decision-making reasons across all students on behalf of our clients. “Family reasons” is referenced the most when students from Malaysia decline their offers.
As you’re speaking with parents, Pete recommends proactively assuring parents of the safety of your university and its location. Like parents anywhere, Malaysian parents want to be confident that their children are safe when they’re studying overseas. With recent negative press, Pete stressed the need to address safety more feverishly in the market.
Scholarships are not be-all and end-all, but cost is a major consideration
‘In Vietnam, the lack of a good scholarship offering will damage your recruitment massively, however this was less of a necessity in Malaysia.’ says Pete.
Though scholarships may not be as much of a sticking point, Malaysian students and their parents are very cost-conscious and are keen to explore their options. During her time in an agency, Alicia found that the universities that offered discounts tended to be more popular. In her role as a UQ Enrolment Adviser, scholarships are among the top FAQs she gets from Malaysian students.
Cost may explain why London doesn’t have quite the draw in this market as it does in other markets. Pete now manages North American recruitment for UEA and he has found that American students are much more caught up on the idea of studying in London than Malaysian students. HESA data for the 2015/2016 academic year shows that 32% of Americans studying in the UK are enrolled at London higher education institutions – only 18% of Malaysian enrolments in the UK are at London higher education providers.
Similarly, financial considerations may have something to do with the most popular subjects of study which lead towards higher-earning professions.
Put in some elbow grease and you’ll attract great students
‘Malaysia is a saturated market, but a little bit of work to raise your profile does go a long way.’ says Pete.
If you take the time to understand your prospective students and engage them in a personalised way – no one-size-fits-all outreach! – you’ll be well on your way to welcoming a great group of students to your campus.
To see more market insights or to learn how UniQuest works with universities to improve international student conversion, contact Mary Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.