ICEF Berlin 2016 – Review & 30 Day Post Evaluation

I had the pleasure of attending ICEF Berlin, which took place at the Intercontinental Hotel between the dates 30th October -1st November 2016.  For those that don’t know, ICEF stands for ‘International Consultants for Education and Fairs’, and they have been in the business of connecting educators with education consultants from around the globe under one roof since 1991. Today, they have grown significantly and gained immense respect from higher education institutions around the world for their involvement, contribution and dedication in encouraging international student recruitment. Their years of expertise has also led to them establishing a source of valuable information which all those interested or involved in education including myself love to follow; ICEF Monitor. The list of services provided by them goes on from agent training to course finding services for students and educator development, ICEF continues to grow and expand in the education field.

Working in the field of student recruitment myself, I had always heard quite a lot about ICEF as my colleagues and director had previously attended many times and we had indeed recruited some very good agents from the event. This year, I gained the chance to attend and see what ICEF was really about, while also on the hunt for some good agents that would help bolster my institution’s student numbers from new markets, primarily Africa. From what I have been told, despite having workshops in many countries around the world at different times, ICEF Berlin is the main event worth going to for agent recruitment. Perhaps the central geographical location of Germany is what attracts institutions and agents as well as others from four corners of the world to this event.

If you are especially:

  • New to the field of international student recruitment
  • Any type of institution involved in education
  • A newly established company focused on education consultation (Agent)
  • A  new company involved in education technology

then I believe that you will find this article useful. I wanted to give an honest review about my experience of the event to those that have never attended or are considering attending, so here is my review of ICEF Berlin 2016 and its 30 day post evaluation.

Correspondence with ICEF

Getting in contact with ICEF for participation is very straight forward. Email correspondence with the ICEF team was very smooth and prompt. Every question that I asked was answered in a very helpful manner. The level of professionalism was at the top level as expected. Additionally, when at the workshop, the representative I was always in contact with (Ms. Seher Neöz) was very kind enough to come meet me and my colleague and get our feedback about the event which was very pleasing.


Registration & Participation Fee

Registration was fairly simple. Every participant has a profile which they must fill. There are word limits to each paragraph when giving information about your institution; therefore, it is important to be efficient and give the vital information that will attract or convince your prospective meeting partner that you are a good contact to have a meeting with. For event participation, the price may sound steep at first. A total of 4,400 EUR for participation and an extra of 2,400 EUR for a second representative.  The fact is, if you do actually manage to get an agreement with at least one good agent out of a possible 30 meetings, then the cost of participating at this event can be covered by even 1-2 students that you recruit from them. As an institution or a company that will attend, it is important to make sure you send a representative that is social, willing to meet new people and is able to set up a good working relationship not only at the event, but after the event with constant follow up, too. Additionally, I would advise you to attend with 2 representatives as you will be getting double the number of meetings which will increase your chance of establishing some good partnerships for your institution. The fee also includes one full day of workshops which really does keep you up-to-date with the latest trends and perhaps may inspire you with new ideas for your future marketing strategies. Despite all this, the fee still can be a turn off especially for new start up agents or institutions on low budgets.


Arranging Meetings with Prospective Agents

ICEF have been very successful in integrating technology in their methods to help event attendees set up their meetings fast and efficiently. The software that was used (Marcom Onsite) was user friendly and ICEF provided a user manual for it. I must admit that I only had a quick glance through the manual and that was enough to arrange my meetings and select the workshops I wanted to attend. However, for older users this may not be the case. The font in the system is very small and it is easy to miss something. For example, I arranged my workshops that I would attend at the last minute, because I didn’t notice the button that leads you to select them. Perhaps some sort of reminder could be established in the system for the future. The earlier you register and begin requesting appointments the better it is to fill your schedule. My schedule was fully booked in about a month after registration (Early September). In total, I had arranged 30 meetings across 2 days. Each meeting lasts around 25 minutes, depending on the conversation. Overall, for a first timer, arranging meetings was very simple.


The Venue

The event was hosted by Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin. This 5 star venue really does give its guests 5 star hospitality. Nothing could be faulted in regards to service. The event organisers were also very clever to keep the guests apart to avoid crowding by having 3 different lunch, desert/fruit and tea stations situated around the event. The hotel itself is in a central area, so staying in another hotel nearby is no problem. As a first timer attending and visiting Berlin myself, I first considered staying at the host venue. However, the price of accommodation was just too expensive, despite getting special rates from ICEF. It is recommended that a nearby hotel at a much more suitable price is preferred. I opted to stay at the RIU Plaza Berlin, and paid almost half the price of what I would have paid for the Intercontinental Hotel. The event venue was only a 10 minute walk away which was very convenient.

Additional tip: Exchange your money to Euro before arriving to Germany as many hotels (4 Star) refuse to exchange currency. As always, my credit card ran to my rescue!


Meetings with Prospective Agents

Although I had arranged 30 meetings across 2 days, in the final week prior to the event, I began getting cancellations of appointments. 3 appointments were cancelled before I arrived to Berlin and 2 were cancelled while I was there. I was told by ICEF representatives that the cancellations were most probably due to visa difficulties. This was a setback in my expectations as I had 5 empty slots that needed to be filled. Additionally, the agents that had cancelled were mostly from Africa. The fact that I had requested to meet many agents from Africa meant that it would be difficult to find any other agents from that region. Only 6% of agents that attended were from Africa. Eventually, I decided to request appointments from other markets to fill the slots instead.

Meetings with prospective agents went rather well. Everyone in the venue had a common interest, to improve their businesses. Naturally, there was a very friendly dialogue with all agents that I met. After every meeting you get a sense of ‘Yes!, got this agent on-board, will be getting more students next year’. However, this is not the case. I was warned of this by my director as well prior to the event. I took a selfie with every agent I met in order to remember who was who. It’s very difficult to keep so many faces and names in your mind in 2 days. It was very easy to just walk up to people and randomly meet them. I managed to exchange contacts with a few potential agents and representatives of education technology companies. In short, all meetings and communication went pretty well and met my expectations, but be ready for possible cancellations that may come up on your schedule.


The Extras

ICEF welcomes you with a free ICEF handbag (rather good quality) and welcome pack when you first walk in to register. The welcome pack has your schedule inside with a memory stick/card as well.  Perhaps one of the most important extras, ICEF also gives you the chance to keep up with the latest trends in education and international student recruitment from around the world by organising many workshops and seminars throughout a whole day. ICEF themselves also give a workshop for first timers on how to get the maximum from the event. Attendance is not compulsory, you can decide which seminar to attend or not, and I managed to attend a total of 3 seminars in the day. I was meant to attend another; however, unfortunately it got cancelled. Nonetheless, I found all seminars very beneficial and felt that they really added value to the organisation. Finally, the welcome reception and workshop party was fun to attend, and it gave everyone a chance to network and enjoy some live music after a busy day.


The 30 Day Post Evaluation

After leaving the event in a very optimistic attitude, I got back to the office and quickly wrote up my follow up emails to the prospective agents I especially wanted to work with. Out of 27 agents, I sent an email to around 20 asking if they would like to continue with collaboration and a reminder document of the institution along with our selfie picture together. It’s been 30 days now, and around 12 have got back to me asking for the contract to be signed.  So far, around 5-6 of these have been prompt with their emails and seem like they are seriously ready to work with us. Follow up is vital after the event in order to keep your institution in the mind of the agents. Nowadays, Whatsapp or Viber is a more convenient, faster and a more popular tool for communication rather than email, so I am keeping the communication going with these tools as well. Despite this, I am keeping a realistic approach expecting that the number of agents that we will consistently get students from will fall to about 2-3. Even if 1 agent sends 1 student, the fair cost would be covered. I will provide an update on this article in around August 2017 to see whether we have been successful. Overall, after attending ICEF Berlin, you will feel a lot of difference in the level of optimism from the final day of the event and 30 days afterwards, so follow up and constant communication is crucial to keep that level up.


Final Verdict, to Attend or not to Attend?

ICEF has done a fantastic job in becoming the leader of such events bringing the educator and agents together under one roof. You can almost smell the experience that they have gained throughout the years in this sector. Every bit of detail has been carefully planned and thought through while organising this event in order to keep the attendees happy. From the educators’ or agents’ point of view, I definitely believe it is worth attending if you are looking to establish new partnerships in new markets. The opportunity is put on a plate for you to grab. Registering early and carefully planning your meetings about a month in advance is strongly recommended. Although the fee may seem a lot for first timers, I believe that the gains will be well worth it if you attend with the right attitude, mind set and objectives. I met both educators and agents that had been attending for the 3rd or 4th time, so something must be going right for them to continue attending. I haven’t heard the same feedback for other events ICEF organised in other countries, and hope to attend them also one day to be able to compare them, but as far as ICEF Berlin goes, it certainly gets the thumbs up from me.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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Facts and Figures for the ICEF Berlin Workshop 2016 (Taken from the ICEF website):

  • 2 444 participants from 1 583 organisations in 100 countries and 6 continents
  • 1 110 educators representing 656 education institutions in 40 countries
  • 1 032 agents representing 797 agencies in 96 countries
  • 171 service providers representing 78 organisations in 18 countries
  • 26 Work & Travel providers representing 16 organisations in 7 countries
  • 26 284  pre-scheduled meetings and 983 scheduled meetings through Marcom Onsite during 2 days


Agent Demographics


Educator Demographics


Educator Profile


Full ICEF report on the Berlin 2016 event can be found here.


International Student Recruitment: How to Keep in Prospective Students’ Minds with your Presentation


In my opinion, visiting schools around the world is perhaps one of the most effective ways of recruiting international students. When attending education exhibitions, there are so many universities around that it is a much more difficult task for the prospective student to be persuaded. Every university has a selling point and I believe at some point the prospective student can switch off with so much information fed to them. However, with school presentations, you can catch a large number of students’ attention and have a lasting presence in their minds if you can put on the right performance. Not always will it result in recruiting students, but I’m pretty certain that your performance in your presentation can and will increase your brand recognition in the long run as well. So I have put together 6 points on how to wow your audience and have a lasting effect in their minds for future recruitment with the right presentation.

1) What message do I want to give?

The first thing you must do is think and plan carefully the message that you want to give to prospective students. There is only so much that you can say in a short amount of time without them starting to get distracted. Think about what it actually is that they want to hear from you. You have to give your message in a super clear manner. Think about the most frequent questions that are asked from you. Make sure you put these answers in-between an attention catching intro and an effective finalizing summary and you’re good to go on to the next stage.

2) How long should my presentation be?

Schools are very reluctant to give you much time, but they do normally allow an hour for you to speak with them. Despite this time frame, let’s not forget that an average attention span for students is around 10-18 minutes. Therefore try to keep your presentation between 30-35 minutes at most and allow 15-20 minutes for questions.

3) What  presentation tool should I use?

Although many people around the world are still using Microsoft PowerPoint, when giving presentations to students I recommend that either Prezi, PowToon or #Slides is used. The reason is that the slides are just so much more fun to look at than PowerPoint. This means that you will keep the prospective students’ attention much longer than PowerPoint. If anyone is still using PowerPoint to give presentations to young prospective students, then trust me, you must change today!

4) How should I design my presentation?

Always remind yourself about the profile of your audience. Although you may have a lot to say and want to write many points in your slides, don’t forget that you also need to put some visuals to keep your audience’s attention on your presentation. Try and design your presentation in such a way so that an interesting picture will also at the same time describe what you actually trying to say. It will be fun and interesting to look at, and you will keep your audience wondering what will come next.

5)  My presentation is complete, now what?

Now it’s time to work on your performance. You may be a quite person in your private time, you may look like the sensible type from outside, you may even get told that you don’t look like you have the profile for the job because of your calmness with others. However, when you get on that stage, when the microphone is handed to you, this is the time when you turn into a star and give that performance that will wow the prospective students when no one expected from you to do so. There are two concrete rules for this; practice and confidence. Practice your presentation over and over again. Learn every bit of it with your eyes closed. This will cut out any pauses in your speech, it will cut out any “errms” and “uuhhs”, it will also speed up your presentation time. When you practice, you also develop a good tone of voice as well. Practice brings you confidence, and having a high level of confidence can actually be felt by your audience, assuring them that you are on the ball and giving them the trust on what you are saying to them. When students feel like they can trust what you’re saying, that is when they start to consider your university as a next potential destination.

6)  Should I present alone or with a partner?

If your partner is trained for this presentation as you are, then feel free to present with him/her. However, if you travel with academic faculty members, current students or alumni to intentionally give these presentations, then I’m afraid your presentation will not have the same wow affect as it would have done if you had done it alone. In this case, I would advise you to conduct the presentation yourself and leave your partner for questions. Do not get me wrong, having an academic faculty member, a current student or alumni with you abroad definitely has huge advantages! However, if you want your presentation to stand out, keep them to the side and use them afterwards to bolster and back up your performance.

Start improving tomorrow

With an attractive and to the point presentation along with a powerful delivery, the chances of recruiting students for your institution will significantly increase. Not only that, but your brand awareness will also increase because you will have a lasting effect in the prospective students’ minds. You may not recruit that specific student, but you may recruit a friend or family member of that student when he/she goes home and describes the cool presentation of the university that visited his/her school. So tomorrow, get your team together, go over your current presentation, and start improving it if you haven’t yet done so!

Good Luck!

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Higher Education: 7 Tips to Select the Right Student Recruitment Agent for Universities


As the number of universities looking to diversify their students and break into new markets increase, we are seeing an increasing surge of student recruitment agencies (education consultants they call themselves) pop up around the world. No matter how much you research about a specific market, without finding the right contacts to support you, breaking into that market can prove to be a very challenging task.

You may think (and we wished it were that way!) that the ideal way of breaking into a new market would be to contact schools directly and visit them so that you can reach the prospective students via presentations. However, unfortunately this is not as easy as you think. In many countries, you may find that your emails are not even answered, the phone number found on the high schools website is not working, the secretary that eventually does pick up the phone ( after calling 8 times!) may not speak English etc. The time difference is another setback especially when trying to call countries in East Asia.

These issues prompt universities to start searching for a middle man (Education Agents) so that they can facilitate this process and support the university with breaking into the market. If you find an agent with the right connections, you can eventually visit schools at the right time, visit high level officials in the ministry of education in that country and fly over after the national exam results are out so that you can brief high school students/graduates about your university in the agent’s office. Not only this, but agents assist students with their applications and after through training by the university representatives, while also giving the best possible information to the student about your institution. When all these benefits are added up, finding an agent that can be your representative is a very attractive idea.

So how do you find the right student recruitment agent to work with? Here are 7 tips that will help you find the right person in order to break into the target market;

1-Is the student recruitment agency certified?

There are so many agents working around the world without certification. Many are even doing this as a part time job! I’ve even seen students who are still pursuing their studies, enter this business and have indeed become successful. However, my piece of advice would be to always stick with a certified agent. This means that they are approved from their government and ministry of education. This also is an indicator of just how serious they are in this business and their level of commitment.

2-Does the student recruitment agency have connections with local schools as well as the ministry of education?

If the agent has a strong network in the market, then that agent’s a real player. It means that the agent can be your key for success in that market. However, it still doesn’t mean that the job is over. Crucial questions must be asked to get a better idea of just how well connected he/she is;

a) How often do you visit or network with high school representatives?

b) What type of previous experience do you have with the ministry of education?

c) What type of schedule could we put together to promote the university?

d) What would be the best time to plan and execute such a schedule?

These questions can give you an idea of just how well the agent is connected without directly asking them if they can do what you actually want them to do. If you ask a prospective agent ‘can we do school visits?’, they will not say ‘no’. They will say ‘yes’, so that they can get the contract signed between both parties.

3-How many universities does the student recruitment agency work with?

This is a tricky one. Do you go for the established agent with years of experience working with over a hundred universities? Or do you go with someone that has only a handful of universities? My experience has shown that agents who have a small number of universities perform much better then bigger companies. This is because bigger companies already have a set of universities which they are happily working with and getting paid from. Additionally, counsellors working at these companies already have a set of universities whose application process they are comfortable with and have not got any negative feedback from students enrolled there. So why would they all of a sudden turn their focus to a new university? Unless you are offering huge commissions, these counsellors will not be pressured into sending your institution students. Therefore, do not expect a big number from these companies. On the other hand, working with a smaller company means that there will be more focus on your university along with an increase in referrals which will result in a higher number of students.

4-How many students does the student recruitment agency send abroad each year?

This information will give you an idea of just how active the agency is. Find out exactly which type of programs these students are sent to. Are they language programs, undergraduate programs or postgraduate programs? Which program has the most focus? Neither a very huge number or a very small number should impress you. It is important to work with an agent that is busy enough to keep his/her focus on student recruitment, but at the same time should be thirsty enough to send even more students abroad.

5-Does the student recruitment agency charge students for administration fees?

Student recruitment agents have their own reasons for charging students or not for applications. As universities we cannot interfere in an agent’s business model. However, in order not to put students off, we do prefer that agents do not charge students as they get their hard works reward through commission payments anyway. This also prevents any possible conflicts between the student and the agent as well. We have seen many cases where students fill in an application via an agent but then do not follow up with it as soon as a fee is requested from them. They then search for another agent to assist them, and conflict between agents may occur. Although this may not seem like a huge problem at first, it may create a bottle neck for prospective students that would like to study at your university.

6-What is the yearly budget for social media advertising and which social media channels are used?

Almost every agent you speak with will tell you that they actively use social media for marketing purposes. But just how active are they? How many adverts do they pay for on Facebook? What about YouTube? Instagram? Twitter? How many times a month will they advertise your institution? These are all questions that need answering. With these questions you will get a clear understanding of just how engaged they are in regards to digital marketing.

7-Are there any exhibitions organized by the student recruitment agency?

Exhibitions are huge money generators for agents. This is because they receive money from attending universities, and they also collect leads to follow up for the future. Therefore most agents organize education exhibitions in order to generate more income. Attending fairs is  very beneficial only if the visitor profile is right, so make sure that you find out about past expo statistics in order to figure out whether to attend the expo or not. Not all agents organize exhibitions. If they feel satisfied by the foot traffic to the office and the results, then they do not feel the need to organize such an event. Nonetheless, having an exhibition organizing agent should be seen as another plus for your marketing strategy, providing that the audience is right.

As the level of competition among agents becomes ever so fierce in today’s environment, finding the right agent becomes ever so difficult for universities. In fact, you may find that many agents can give false promises just so that they can get your university on their clientèle list. They then do not meet their promises or fail to organize any type of meeting for you to be able to break into that market. It’s a difficult process for us university representatives. You want to make sure that you will find such an agent that will support your efforts in increasing your brand’s awareness and most important of all, your student numbers. At the same time, the agent has to be convinced that his/hers efforts will pay off. As you can imagine, it is a difficult balance to find. However, the 7 tips mentioned in this piece can ensure that you keep on the right track to select the right agent for your institution.

 Good Luck!

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Studying Abroad for the First Time? 5 Tips to Help You Settle in Fast


Going abroad to study is always a daunting experience to begin with. Leaving behind friends and family to begin your adventure alone, in a setting you are not familiar with is a courageous move in itself. However, not everyone can adapt and go on to complete their mission. Many students grow up with their parents’ expectation to study abroad  without even consulting with them. Many go abroad because of the social pressures they feel from others around them. Many even believe that studying abroad in one destination would give the same experiences as studying in another destination. Students may have an acceptance letter to study in the UK or USA, but studying in London will not give the same experience as studying in Durham, and neither will studying in New York as opposed to studying in Lafayette. When the correct amount of research is not done, and the right type of mind set is not present, this is when the cracks begin. These are the typical student profiles that are doomed to fail and return to their countries.

In order to help students prepare better for study abroad, I have 5 tips that will help them settle in and adapt quickly to their new surroundings;

1) Read as much as you can about the destination you are going to


What’s the lifestyle like there? Are people friendly? Is it safe? These are just some of the crucial questions you need to find out before you get on the plane. You need to be prepared for where you are going as much as possible to avoid any shocks. Therefore read reviews, study the history of the city you are going to, speak with friends that have been there before and try to be best prepared for what you will find.

2) A friendly hello can take you a long way


Always keep in mind that your fellow freshers are in a new environment just as you are. This means you have a common subject to talk about from day 1. Don’t be shy to say hello and ask a few questions  about where he/she is from. Meet as many people as you can. It’s important that you start building your network quickly in order to find the people you can best get along with. You’ll feel much more confident in university when you know that you have people around you that you’ve met before and can go talk to.

3) Attend all orientation & workshops


With orientation week you’ll find that 99% of freshers will attend the first sessions of orientation. As soon as things start getting familiar with the students, the attendance for orientation drops to about half by midweek. However, little do they know that these sessions are the most important ones that will help them settle in and adapt quickly. It will help avoid any stress or inconvenience later on when studies commence. Therefore, my advice is to attend all sessions and use these sessions to also socialize and meet new people. Additionally, workshops are also vital for those who need to adapt quickly to the academic side of the university. For example, workshops on academic writing or referencing can give you a head start for your education.

4) Attend all classes


Never forget the purpose of your travel. They say that 80% of success at university is attendance. Attending all your classes will put you on firm ground for having a good first year. If you start regularly skipping class, then trust me things will not go well. If things don’t go well in class, this will only put more pressure and stress on your shoulders and therefore make it harder for you to adapt to your new home.

5) Stay Positive


Yes, there will be times when you become homesick. You’ll miss your family, friends, parents’ food, speaking your native language regularly, your hometown etc. However, these are things that you should expect will happen. It’s about how you go about overcoming these moments. Technology has really helped in communicating with family and friends and I believe has eased this process. Until the technology of teleportation is invented, the other things you miss will have to wait. Just remember to stay positive, remember why you’re there and realize that when this is all over you will look back and say those were the best years of your life.Try to enjoy it as much as you can while keeping your priorities in order.

For students going abroad to study for the first time, these essential tips can take you a long way in settling in quickly. The earlier you can settle in, the quicker your success will come.

Good Luck!


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Higher Education: How to Decide Whether or Not to Attend an Overseas Study Abroad Exhibition


As International Student Recruitment Officers, every year we receive hundreds of invitations to study abroad or education exhibitions via email or even post. Attending all exhibitions is not possible, so how do we ensure we make the best decisions when adding these events to our yearly marketing schedule?

Exhibitions = Time + Money 

Exhibitions take up a lot of valuable time. Mostly in one city an expo lasts for 2 days. National ones can last up to 10 days. A 10 day expo may cost you anywhere between 5-10 thousand dollars to attend.You don’t want to attend an expo and be disappointed. You definitely don’t want go back to the office and write in your report that it was a disappointing expo. You want your money’s worth and above all, you want results.

Is the Exhibition the Right One for You?

Be careful with exhibitions labeled as education exhibitions. You may find that education exhibitions are more dominated with innovative tech companies focusing on education, or private high schools trying to attract prospective student parents’ attention. These type of expos do not attract the type of student profile you want. Although there may be other universities present, I would not recommend these types of fairs as it is highly likely that you will not find the intensity of attendance that you would expect elsewhere at a study abroad fair. So make sure that you clearly understand what type of expo it is that you are attending.


Be Realistic about your Attendance

If your university does not attract Europeans or Asians, then there is really no point  in attending study abroad expos in these countries unless you have a clear cut strategy of how you will have a strong presence in the target market. For example, an education fair in Malaysia might sound like a good idea, but as a university in Cyprus, I have to ask myself why should I go if respected international campuses are offering Malaysians the chance to study in their home countries at much more affordable costs with no travel expenses? What type of competitive edge can I have over these universities in that country? If I haven’t done any type of PR in this market before, how will I compete with other rival universities that have?

If you seriously wish to break into these type of new markets, then you have to work on building your brand awareness in that country, and without this being accomplished first, my opinion is that you will be flushing your money and valuable time down the toilet.


The first step when getting an invitation for a study abroad expo is to ask for statistics. How many people attended previous expos? What was the student profile like? Are there any schools that have confirmed attendance beforehand? What are the dates? Is the expo organized at a good time? Will students be able to attend? are just some of the crucial questions that must be answered before you decide to attend an expo. However, it doesn’t stop there. Ask which universities have attended before. Contact them and ask for feedback. You may have someone you know working for a university that has attended before.


Timing of the Exhibition

The timing of an exhibition is also one of the major factors that should influence your decision of attendance. Do not bother going to an expo if you know that their mock or final exams time is very near. Exhibitors know that generally the best time to organize an expo is end of January till early April. That is why many exhibitions are cramped up between these months. However, others try to fit in an expo at another time away from the busy season, hoping that more universities will take part while at the same time praying that prospective students will have the interest and find the time to attend. In my personal experience, I have found that these type of exhibitions do not attract the same number of students as it would usually do in the right period. Make sure that the expo you will be attending is at a time where students will actually be free to attend.

Quality > Quantity

Another important thing to have in mind is the attendee profile. Many study abroad expos give statistics of their yearly attendance. Analyze these statistics well. For example, an expo may declare that 5000 people attended the previous year, but how many of these attendees were actually final year students looking for a university? How many attendees were below the age of 16? How many people were parents? How many attendees were just wanderers? If an exhibition can brake these statistics down for you, then that exhibition should have a place on your list, above its competitors in that market. In short, don’t be fooled by the quantity of people that attended the expo, try to find out it’s level of quality.

Finally, while attending study abroad exhibitions around the world may sound like a whole lot of fun for many people, in reality it is actually a very tiring challenge with a lot of responsibilities and pressure on our shoulders to deliver results. Therefore, in order to make sure that our efforts pay off, taking the above guidelines into consideration will put us onto the right track for success.

Good Luck!


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Higher Education: Improving Your International Student Numbers From the Office in 5 Steps


Selecting a university is a life changing decision for all prospective students. Today, thanks to the Internet, prospective students have thousands of universities to choose from out of many different destinations. Universities are now competing with each other over who can get the best message across to prospective international students around the world in order to recruit them.

Luckily for me, I work for a university that is heavily involved in International student recruitment and from my experiences I can say that there are still many universities out there that are not giving enough importance to international student recruitment. To give an example my director attended the NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisers) conference in the USA (2015) and was shocked to see that a student recruitment system far less superior than ours  was being introduced to universities.

Prospective international students are having a hard time easily accessing:

  • Admission Criteria
  • Scholarship Opportunities (if any)
  • Application Procedure

Without giving any names, many prospective students are finding it difficult to access the information above in a clear and efficient manner of many universities around the world including in many EU countries. Perhaps the demand for these universities are high anyway, which pushes international student recruitment reforms to the back of the pile when it comes to their policies; however there are many reasons why this should not be ignored.

International Students bring:

  • Increased International Outlook
  • Enriched Campus Culture
  • International Marketing (Organic)
  • New Ideas
  • Increased Awareness of Other Cultures
  • Increased Profits
  • Long Term Benefits for Future Recruitment

So I’ve put together 5 important steps to improve your international student numbers from your office.

1) Easy Access to Online Information

This may sound easy to do, but it requires a lot of thought and planning. How will you get your message across to the prospective students as quick as possible before they get bored, give up and move on to the next university? Your information should be accessible within 2 or 3 clicks. Some universities like to keep a corner of their home page dedicated to International students, so that as soon as the page opens, prospective students will see and click straight away to access to the information they are looking for. Some universities like to keep this information under a tab called international students, which is invisible unless you hover your mouse over it. Some universities like to keep the information under one general tab called undergraduate students, which then leads to the page you are looking for a few clicks later. As I mentioned above, the aim should be to help prospective international students get to this information as soon as they can. Therefore, if you cannot reach this information within 2-3 clicks, then a need of reform is suggested on your web page.

2) Display the Information Clearly

Once students get to the 1st page of admission criteria, it is important to keep other information related to scholarships, tuition, living costs, visa and accommodation visible as tabs on the side of the page. I would advise to add a frequently asked questions tab too, with the objective to cut down incoming email traffic. Additionally, many universities that are already heavily involved with international student recruitment have separated pages for admission criteria according to each country.  This can be optional as it might be a good idea to have admission criteria plus visa instructions all in one page for a specific country. Some universities prefer to display a long single table listing all accepted examinations and another table for visa instructions. If you do not have the resource and time to have a tailor made page for each country, then listing all criteria on a single page in a single table will do.

3) Application Procedure Reforms

The application procedure has to be as simple as it possibly can. A prospective student should be able to complete his/her application within 15 – 20 minutes providing they have their documents ready. A long and tough application period will put many students off. You may think that this will ensure that only the really serious applicants will apply. Not quite if you ask me. Put an application fee between 50-100 USD, I think this may be a more effective filter. In my view, there is no need for motivation and reference letters. I know that many universities use this to try and differentiate applicants from one another, but do they also know that half the time these letters are not even mostly written by the students themselves? There are departments in many high schools around the world which heavily assist in writing these letters. There is huge competition among high schools over who will send the most students abroad to top universities, especially  the Ivy League Colleges in the US. Universities spend so much precious time reading these reference and motivation letters for nothing. Today, in a world where the Internet is now so dominant, I would suggest universities to have short 10 minute interviews with serious prospective students instead, with a couple of clear cut questions.

Additionally, there are some very good online application platforms available for universities to purchase. With the assistance of web developers who have previous experience in this field, a fresh looking, user friendly and tailor made application platform could be created for your university at a reasonable cost. This platform would not only be a platform for application, but also would provide automated statistics essential for your international marketing strategies for the next intake. Feel free to contact me for recommendations.

4) Follow Up Your Applications

In every intake it is very likely that you will have a leakage of applicants. These are applicants which have applied but then have not proceeded with their applications due to a number of reasons. One could be because the student is still unsure if they are making the right decision or not. Another reason could be that they do not check their email inbox as frequently as they should do. It is up to their teachers and mentors in high school to encourage their students (including their families) to have email accounts in secondary school. In many underdeveloped and even developing countries, I have observed that it is common to come across families which do not approve of their children getting so familiar with the Internet at an early age, as they believe this will distract them from their studies. Thus, when the time comes to apply for university, the prospective student does not yet develop the habit of frequently checking his/her email account.

In order to prevent leakage of applicants, the first step would be to contact all idle applications via email first. If they have provided a second email address in their application then ‘cc’ the secondary email too. If you do not receive any reply, then it is important to call the applicant via telephone. I have found that many of the prospective students that fall into this category need a little push in order for them to proceed with their application. The objective is to build a good rapport between the applicant and yourself. Give them the confidence they are looking for to go ahead and take this life changing step. It will make them feel better about their choice and also respect you for taking the time to call them. They will feel that you care, which can prove to be a real game changer. If that still doesn’t work, the application will fail. However, the good impression that you left may work for your benefit in the future if you are recommended to another prospective student.

5) Social Media Marketing

I’m sure you have heard this before, but I still feel the need to stress the importance of Social Media Marketing. Not just for Facebook, but for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Successful marketing in all five social media channels will definitely have a positive impact on your international student numbers. There are many professional marketing companies out there offering services to do this for you. DON’T DO IT! Sorry for those offended, but ridiculously expensive amounts are being charged for so little. With just a few clicks and 10 minutes of your time, you can organize a successful social media campaign yourself at a third of the cost. If you haven’t had any training on social media marketing before, there are hundreds of free tutorials of how to do this on the web and even on the social media channels themselves. Use social media marketing as a strategy that will pull prospective students to your website and increase applications in the long run as well as increasing the brand awareness of the university.

Finally, if you are working for a university that is looking to increase its international student ratio on campus, increase its international outlook, increase its brand awareness and consequently increase its profits, then these 5 steps will help you do so without leaving the office.

Good Luck!



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10 Questions You Need to Ask When Searching for a University Abroad

Studying abroad is an increasing trend around the world. Many students look for the chance to explore new experiences away from home. When I’m away at study abroad fairs I always make time to wander around and listen to what other universities have to say. One thing I hate is hearing universities giving false promises to prospective students. Yes, it happens very frequently. As student recruitment officers, we have targets to meet, and strive to get the best results possible.

Some colleagues like to sugar coat their institution just a bit too much. This may work in the short term, but you’ll find in the long term this will collapse. It’s like building a bridge on plastic foundations. The reason is that the student will end up transferring to another university or even worse, writing a formal complaint. If that complaint goes to the education ministry in their host country, disaster.

Besides this, prospective students generally approach university representatives with 3 common questions;

  • What programs do you offer?
  • What are the tuition fees?
  • Do you offer scholarships?

Although these are indeed crucial questions, they are in no way enough to decide whether that university is the right university for them.

So in order to assist you, prospective students, I have put together 10 questions you need to ask when searching for a University abroad.

1) Is the university recognized by my country’s MOE?

This is the first thing you should find out if you are looking to study abroad. There have been many cases where students have studied at less popular universities, only to find out their diploma will not get approved by the Ministry of Education due to the university not being recognized. China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan are the first countries to come to mind which are very strict with this issue.

2) Are the programs offered at the university accredited by international accreditation boards?

Especially for those who wish to study engineering, it is important to know whether your desired program is accredited. In other words, is the program curricula approved and recognized by international accreditation boards? This will give you an edge in your CV for the future. It’s not the end of the world if it isn’t, but your life will be a lot easier in the future I can assure you.

3) What is the Student to Faculty Ratio?

How many students are in a class? What is the interaction level with your professor? These are crucial questions to ask any university representative. The more interaction you will have in the class, the more enriched your education will be. Would you rather attend boring lectures in huge lecture halls with over 100 students? Or engaging, active lectures with 30-40 students maximum? It is very important that you have a good relationship with faculty members. You should feel comfortable in approaching them whenever you may need assistance.
4) What is the International Student Ratio?

If you wish to study abroad, you should look to do so in the most international friendly environment available. You will witness different cultures, expose yourself to new ideas and ultimately have a friend in many different countries. It will make a difference in the future when you need to put your networking skills to practice at work. Don’t only ask about the International student ratio on campus, but look at the population of international citizens living in the city where the university is. Trust me, you will feel much more comfortable and adapt quicker than you think, to life abroad.

5) Does the university assist with employment near graduation?

Another crucial question. Getting a respected degree alone may not be enough to get employed soon after graduation. What steps does the university take to help you find a job as soon as possible? Are companies frequently invited to meet graduating students? Does the university assist with preparation of CVs? Are there any workshops on interview techniques? Not only should universities strive to recruit students on the way in, but they should do their best to prepare them for what awaits them after graduation. At the end of the day, the graduating students are a university’s best reference.

6) How big is the campus?

When a student is briefed about a university, many of them ask the complex education related questions, and forget to ask the simple ones. They then apply, pay their fees and travel to campus only to realise that the campus they had dreamed about for months is only a 3 floored building with no outdoor facilities. The horror! Research, Research, Research.  Ask how big the campus is. Is everything accessible and within walking distance? How big are the academic blocks and laboratories? How big is the library? What’s the total student capacity on campus? These questions will give you a good idea before you begin your journey to university.

7) How new are the facilities?

If you are a person that is picky with accommodation then you may want to ask how old the dormitory facilities on campus are. Do they get cleaned up and painted every year? Many students travelling from abroad prefer to stay on campus in dormitories or as close to the university as possible. You do not want any bad surprises when you get to your room after a long period of travel. Further on, ask about laboratory facilities if you wish to study a science related program. It will give you an idea of how well equipped the university is.

8) Are there any extra costs besides tuition, dormitory and registration fee?

Make sure that you are well aware of all the costs when you arrive to university. You may find that obtaining a student residency permit or health insurance will bring extra costs along with it that you were not made aware of prior to arrival. Dormitory deposit may be requested from you and not stated on the website. All types of surprises may await you. Be certain about the amount you must pay, and if you are being funded by your parents the last thing you want to do is keep bugging them for more money.

9) Are there any notable Alumni?

If the university has graduates working at top companies in respected positions not only on a national level but on an international level, then you know that university is doing something right. Ask about alumni and where some are currently working. It will give you confidence when making your decision and also an idea of how well they follow up with their alumni.

10) Can you put me in contact with a current student?

This is where you really put to the test what an international recruitment officer has said to you. Getting information from a current student is the best way to find out if the university is really as great as the recruitment officer says it is. You may also get a chance to sense the level of enthusiasm and happiness of a current student. You can get insights on class time, dormitories, campus life and the general atmosphere. Another bonus would be that you make a friend before you even get to the university. It will make you feel so much better about your decision.

For Undergraduate or Postgraduate study, whatever level of education you are seeking for abroad, asking these 10 questions are essential to make sure that you are making the right decision.

Good Luck!

Terrorists terrorizing student recruitment in higher education. What can we do?

“Universities rather than individually, must now act collectively”

Terrorism isn’t just about an attack happening in a specific place in a specific country. It does not end when the shooting or bombing ends. The knock off effects for almost every sector in the country must be considered. Regarding higher education, increasing terrorist attacks are changing the perceptions of countries for prospective students around the world. France, Belgium, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have been the latest victims. In other countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan, it is ongoing. Studying abroad has been such a trend throughout the years that universities rather than individually, must now act collectively and figure out how they must get the message across to prospective students to assure them that studying in their host country will be safe for them. Many prospective student parents are now opting to send their children abroad for postgraduate studies rather than undergraduate. They cannot bear the thought of sending their children for three or four years in such an environment. The media doesn’t help either. For somebody living in Asia for example, if all they see are bombs going off in Turkey on the news, then what type of image does that leave in their minds?

First things first, the golden rule in marketing higher education is to always be honest about what you say. This is a life changing decision for the prospective student you are talking to, you can’t afford to sell lies and it could be very damaging for your career and the institution in the long term. If there is a serious threat in or around your institution, then you cannot hide this but instead stress as much as you can that the university is doing as much as it can on improving safety on and around campus. If your institution is not affected directly by an attack, or is in another city or a neighbouring country from where an attack took place then your job is a little easier.

I class universities into the below categories when an attack occurs;

Highly Affected: Universities in the city of where an attack has taken place

Mildly Affected: Universities in other cities but within the host country of an attack

Slightly Affected: Universities in neighbouring countries of an attack

In the event of a terrorist attack, if the university you work for falls into one of these categories then I’m afraid your institution has taken a knock on its image and its attractiveness has somewhat decreased as a result, despite the attack having no direct aim towards the university itself. This type of unwanted situation can demolish a university’s efforts in international marketing and branding very quickly hence they need a strategy to be able to overcome the aftermath of such an event in the best way possible. Besides this, when we look through the prospective student and parents’ perspective, faith needs to be restored as quickly as possible to be able to consider studying in a country affected by terrorism. Below are some strategies that some universities have begun to implement to bring any negative consequences to a minimum either before or after an attack has occurred.

“Universities now have to find a way to market themselves as a safe haven”

Universities whose destinations have been hit by an attack or not, now have the struggle of getting the message of safety across for prospective students parents. “Will my child be 100% safe in that country?” “What is the chance of an attack happening?” “Will I be able to sleep comfortably while my child is abroad?” are just some of the questions that go through the parents’ mind. Rather than bragging about the achievements of the university, universities now have to find a way to market themselves as a safe haven. Perhaps an obvious way could be social media. Facebook has launched live video streaming, which could be used frequently to show live events as well as everyday life including the safe environment on campus. The age of Facebook users has increased in the last 5 years dramatically which means that the chances of parents coming across your content is high. Today the social media app Snapchat has swept across the Earth and is on millions of young teenagers’ phones. It is becoming an increasing trend among universities as well. Perhaps it could prove to be a tool that can give assurance of safety to students as well as parents as it shows content throughout the day.

“The word “safe” itself has become a key word in visual material of universities”

Universities must also think about how to include safety in their slogans and promotional material. The word “safe” itself has become a key word in visual material of universities. Many of them have begun to design visual material that looks homely or cosy in the library or classroom for example, giving the assumption that the prospective student will feel at home and away from any threat. Videos are also being made in homely settings and then advertised. Universities based in countries that have been affected by terrorism are now looking to increase these efforts through both printed and digital content. However, sometimes the universities’ efforts themselves are not sufficient enough to convince the parents. Another way universities try to go around this is gathering testimonials from current students. They display content on their websites as a reference from an independent source (the student) in the hope that it will be more convincing. This could work, but it depends where it is used. For example, getting a group of students together to form an independent blog about the university and publishing their views there may be more effective than putting it up on the official website of the university. I believe it gives more of a sense of credibility towards what is written, therefore can be more persuasive for the prospective student and the parent.

“Could TV Dramas be a Solution?”

One way that Turkey has tried to work around this is through their many Turkish drama series.  Go to any of the Gulf countries and you will find they are very well known. Turkish embassies have worked hard to get them air time in these countries. These dramas are advertising Turkey in such an attractive way that prospective students develop a dream to study there, despite what is going on. In my visits to these countries I frequently get asked about them, sometimes I get asked about the drama itself rather than the university I work for which can be annoying especially when there are people queuing to talk to me behind. These dramas are aired in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh as well. Perhaps other countries looking to increase their awareness could seek such a solution, too.

“International Students = Culture, diversity, ideas and dollar signs for some”

Today, universities have come to realize the importance of recruiting international students. They bring new cultures, diversity and ideas. They become university ambassadors after graduation. For many universities that focus more on quantity rather than quality, they are viewed as dollar signs. As the competition in Higher Education gets ever so fierce, the strategies above could save your institution from a lot of headache in the future in the event of an attack while minimizing the risk of damage to your brand.

Please feel free to comment if you have any views on this.

Good Luck!

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Sinan Hussein – Bio


Who am I?

Good Question! I’ll get straight into it then. My parents called me Sinan. I have 2 different surnames (long story, perhaps for another blog) but i prefer to use the one on my UK passport which is Hussein. Yes, UK passport. I was born and grew up in London till the age of 12, until my family moved to Cyprus where our roots are originally from. I endured a huge culture shock at that age, and had to pick myself up pretty swiftly to adapt to a new education system quite far from what i had seen in the UK. Ever since we moved i never have really seen myself as 100% British or Cypriot. I prefer to call myself a global citizen.

My education and current profession?

I graduated with a bachelor of science in Business Administration Middle East Technical University (Cyprus) and then went on to Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland) and IPAG Business School (France) to complete a dual diploma masters degree with distinction in International Marketing with tourism and events. I found myself in the Higher education sector as soon as I returned to Cyprus in 2015 working as an International Recruitment Officer in the International Office at the university I graduated from METU Northen Cyprus Campus. I’ve been in this position for almost 2 years now and I’m responsible for the Asia and Africa market although as we are a small team I also find myself going to other markets such as the Gulf countries from time to time.

Why am I writing?

I’m not starting this blog with the belief that I am an expert and with the thought that everybody must follow my advice. NO WAY! However, I do believe that I can share my experiences and views for students and alongside this, student recruitment strategies that can be useful for institutes of higher education as well.If my blogs manage to influence anybody who may come across them, great.

My final note for this post

Studying abroad is a very popular trend around the world, especially for 3rd world countries. Students take a life changing gamble based on what we say as student recruitment officers when visiting these countries. What is crucial is that universities manage to deliver information in an accurate, honest and transparent fashion in the most attractive way possible. For students looking to study abroad, it’s all about research research research. Research on education quality, research on living conditions, research on future prospects etc. The list goes on.. So I hope you enjoy this blog and I welcome any feedback you may have to offer.