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Britain’s universities are working hard to attract international students. With the government announcing British Universities are to expect a £950 million cut in funding over the next three years, higher education institutions need to look elsewhere for financial support. 

The average non-EU student tuition fees for arts and science undergraduate degrees are around £10,000 per year, and with the potential to reach £20,000 depending on the course and establishment, the financial benefits for cash-strapped UK universities to recruit international students is obvious.

Having a strong online presence is vital. Statistics show that 31.7% of the 338m internet users in China are students. It is likely that students already look to the Internet as their primary source of information on UK universities.

Here are a few steps universities can take to ensure they target the right market, and that usability is optimised:

  1. Identify key phrases specific to the target market.

    Incorporating them into the site will vastly improve SEO. Oban Multilingual SEO/SEM found that in China, for example, great importance is placed on the prestige of the university.

    Therefore it would be beneficial to feature a section on the university’s ‘ranking’ - a popular search phrase for Chinese students. 

  2. Localised research will give an insight into what students are looking for.

    A prominent London university points out that whilst business, law, and economics degrees are popular with their Chinese students, performing arts, media and psychology degrees are the chosen topics for Japanese.

    Marketing the subjects that are more likely to be popular within a nationality is more likely to bring ROI. 

  3. Social network sites are an effective way to market to potential international students.

    A vast majority of social network users are young people (aged 16-24). Again, it is important to keep in mind the locality of the market. Although Facebook and Twitter maybe the initial social sites that spring to mind in the UK, in China www.renren.com is popular with the student demographic. 

Although Britain is currently second only to the USA in attracting overseas students, the competition is growing. France, Singapore and Germany are just a few of the countries who have employed strategies to attract potential international students, and with recent and upcoming changes to the UK’s student visa policy, it is more important than ever for the UK’s higher education institutions to up their stakes in international marketing.

The key to their success is to embrace modern technological advances.


Published 26 March, 2010 by Greig Holbrook

Greig Holbrook is director of Oban Multilingual and a contributor to Econsultancy.

6 more posts from this author

Comments (3)


Craig Johnson

Fantastic article with very valid points. Over the past two years, competition to reach those seeking education online, has grown dramatically in the US. Both traditional and for-profit educators are competing for attention and enrollments, along with agencies and aggregators. There are many ways for Universities based in the UK to begin competing with the likes of University of Phoenix for consideration. Sites like www.education.org and www.businessschools.com are well established in helping seekers find an applicable education provider, whether its in the US or UK.

over 6 years ago


hlly transmitter

um ehrlich zu sein, versteh ich gar nichts und hab keine ahnung, wie ich das hinbekommen soll. habt ihr nicht eine schritt für schritt erklärung für dummies wie mich?

almost 6 years ago



hi, very insightful article....Online tool is increasingly becoming a core platform for universities now...your article really threw new light on it...

over 4 years ago

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