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4 Recruitment Strategies to Build a Global University

I’m a bit of a recruitment nerd. It comes with the territory when you’re part of the UQ team. So, my mind couldn’t help but wander toward recruitment as I listened to the brilliant panel discussion on defining a global university at the recent International Higher Education Forum.

Now, before I get into my recruitment daydreams, let’s get squared away on what a global university is. The tricky part is that there’s no single definition really; it seems to mean something somewhat different to everyone. Or, maybe it’s just hard to put into words – as expressed on the IHE Forum panel, you just feel it when you’re at a global university.

While the definition is fuzzy, there are some qualities I think we can agree on. Characteristics like a student body representing countries from around the world, a strong sense of community shared between home and international students, university leadership passionate about international education…

With this is in mind, I thought – how can strategic recruitment lay the foundation for a global university? Beyond just hitting enrolment numbers, how can you prime international students to feel a part of a global university before they even arrive on campus?

I noodled with UQ’s enrolment and international higher ed experts when I got back to the office, and we landed on four major qualities of a recruitment strategy that shapes a global university.

1. Personalised communication
Forget one-size-fits-all. To attract students from around the world you need to send the right message, through the right channels and at the right time. Does your message translate appropriately in students’ cultures, is it relevant to their engagement with your university to date, are you contacting them through their preferred channels? Being conscious of these things will set you apart, and demonstrate that you’re a university that can effectively communicate at an international level.

Let’s look at email communication, for example. In 2015, those in the UK Education and Training sectors realised click-through rates of 7.43% for automated, personally targeted emails compared to click-through rates of 1.04% for static, non-automated emails.

No matter the channel, remember to be careful with language barriers as they go beyond vocabulary and grammar. As an American living in the UK, I’ve had my fair share of blank stares when I’ve yammered on with sayings that apparently only make sense in the States.

2. Timely, friendly support
Let prospective students know you have their backs before they make the scary leap abroad. Prompt and enthusiastic responses to prospective students’ questions and concerns can make them feel more confident in the support they’d receive on campus, giving you a competitive edge and ultimately making their transition to your university a bit smoother.

Here’s some student feedback from our client universities highlighting the value students find in excellent, early support:

‘Many thanks – I really appreciate your personal reply and help on this… Your advice and pointers are greatly appreciated… it really makes a difference’

‘Thank you for your emails. I truly appreciate the information you’ve given me- it was very helpful and made the process much clearer’

‘Thank you for your kindness it makes me feel very welcome. It is really good to know who to turn to if I have any questions’

3. Proactive encouragement
Regular communication with prospective students during the application and offer process certainly drives enrolment, but it can also help build excitement and a stronger attachment to the university. Feeling a part of the university community before even arriving on campus can set the stage for making friends with home and other international students and becoming an active member of the campus culture.

4. Tracking student demand
At this point, you’ve gathered that communication is key – I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true! Data is also critical. Okay, another ‘duh’ moment. But, collecting and analysing data is easier said than done and so many universities are missing out on the value it provides.

Making it a priority to consistently track and review data, in real-time, keeps you informed of diverse student interests and demands so you can respond appropriately to students in every country.


Strategic international recruitment alone won’t create a global university, but it will pave the way. If you’d like to incorporate these qualities into your own recruitment strategy, we can help! Just contact us.