Submitted by: Martyn Edwards, Head of Marketing and Business Development, UK & US IDP Education

How can colleges and universities help to alleviate some of the uncertainty for international students?

The current US political environment has created a turbulent backdrop for Higher Education institutions across the region as well as nationally. The executive orders on immigration have led to widespread negative press coverage across the world, with prospective students seeking reassurances around possible discrimination.

College and universities need to work together to present the US as a welcoming, tolerant and safe place to study. At IDP each year we conduct research into student buying behavior that explores student perceptions of different study destinations. Our latest data, collated prior to the travel bans, shows that the US already compares less favorably to Canada, Australia and New Zealand when it comes to perceptions of safety and visa requirements.

It is therefore more important than ever for colleges and universities to focus on taking ownership of things over which they can exercise some degree of control. Whilst it may be challenging to directly influence government policy and how it is then reported in overseas media, it is entirely possible to implement suitable institutional procedures and processes that can ease the concerns of prospective students. This can then be communicated through the various marketing engagement channels institutions used in order to improve perceptions of safety.

Studying overseas is an emotional and often life-changing decision for not only students but also their parents, representing a significant personal not just financial investment. US Higher Education marketers should reassess their current outputs with not just a critical eye but to try and do so from the viewpoint of a concerned parent in Dubai, Delhi or Dhaka.

When institutions develop messaging and collateral around student life, they may wish to include information on campus security, alcohol free policies, community integration initiatives, wider diaspora groups, faith and worship, culture, food, heritage and tourist attractions.

The #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, which has been spearheaded by Temple University, is a positive first step to building a compelling narrative that resonates with international students and alleviates some of their anxieties. Students and parents value personalized story telling through videos and case studies that articulate not only the return on investment of an education here but that the US offers a friendly and inclusive student experience.

This is particularly true today when US colleges and universities are witnessing unprecedented levels of global competition and also a significant increase in student expectations, which is driven in part by the breadth and immediacy of information at their disposal via social media platforms.

Many international students literally have a world of choice; they are extremely bright, well-traveled and affluent. They have viable high quality options not only in the five traditional English Language speaking study destinations, but also regional education hubs closer to home as well as greater English-taught provision in continental Europe at lower cost.

At IDP we have a global network of over 650 trained counsellors across more than 30 countries; these are experienced staff that are committed to p