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Webinar Summary–How to Reposition International Student Recruitment After COVID-19?


The University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, prophetically purchased a 3-year insurance against a drop in Chinese enrollment with a coverage of USD 60 million and a premium of USD 424K. Many other universities (and their business schools) were left “holding the bag” and the reported losses are staggering. Most of them identified the diversification of student intake as a priority item of their risk registers, but it was not followed up by tangible action. The future certainly has to be different.

This webinar will look at international student recruitment from a business perspective by putting the focus on recruitment cycles and international study motives. How much international diversification is desirable and needed? And how can international recruitment and diversification targets be effectively balanced?

Access the Presentation Here



On July 8th Andrea Longaretti, Jerker Moodysson, and Thijs van Vugt discussed international student recruitment from a business perspective. They question what the implications and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic really are.

Van Vugt begins the conversation by discussing the survey that Studyportals sent out in March in order to get student feedback. Between March and May of this year, there was a 40.3% increase of students who think that COVID-19 will negatively impact their studies. Overall, there is an increase of 30% of students who think they may postpone or halt their studies afterall. The survey is ongoing, so more results will become available in August.

Longaretti agrees with van Vugt; he has seen application numbers beginning to steadily increase in the recent weeks. He then explains the recent trends in student recruitment. There is an overexposure towards Chinese and Indian students. Now, the situation is changing. In the last few years here has been a drop in Chinese and Indian students going specifically enrolling in US, UK, and Australian schools. He explains that this is clearly not all a result of COVID-19. There have been changes in the global social and political landscapes–including the US president and Brexit. To mitigate these effects Longaretti proposes that institutions should offer

value for money, personalization, and flexibility enhancement” -Andrea Longaretti

Moodysson first gives a brief overview of his institution Jönköping University in Sweden. Jönköping focuses on emphasizing “intercultural competencies” and the “value of diversity” during student recruitment.

Longaretti addresses safety concerns in the recruiting process. He discloses that IE Business School strives to be transparent about their procedures. The school is working closely with the government as well. He explains that maintaining security is really based on timely communication. Moodysson adds that Jönköping University also strives to be transparent. The university is practicing social distancing, lowering the density on campus, requiring small gatherings, and giving preference to first year students.

“In most economic crises, education is rather recession proof” -Thijs Van Vugt

With high unemployment, people tend to stay in education or seek out education. In the end, van Vugt thinks that this will become a more competitive market.

Moodysson agrees with van Vugt that “having an edge will become even more important.” -Jerker Moodysson

Those who choose to study abroad will likely deliberately choose a specific place as well as school. Schools need to have an “edge and an identity” that is enticing to students. Moodysson discloses that Jönköping intends to stick to its areas of strength where they can deliver a unique value-add.

Longaretti shares that although IE Business School is based in Spain, “90% of the students are not from Spain.” Their value-add is to offer a “local experience.” There is only one campus, but 31 offices world-wide. Therefore, the schools give the feeling of Madrid, but the international offices allow for more students to become engaged.

The conversation ends with general agreement from the panelists. Schools must be flexible, and a hybrid approach to recruitment will likely be best. It is up to institutions to position themselves in order to thrive and grow in this environment, ultimately for the benefit of the students.


Stephanie is the International Communications Intern at GBSN. She is currently a senior at the George Washington University in Washington, DC in the Elliott School of International Affairs.