International student recruitment can provide a useful revenue stream for your organisation. But successful international programmes don’t just happen; it’s vital that you invest in the development of your programme.
The case studies below illustrate the different approaches three schools have taken to conceiving of, and resourcing, their international programmes.
Common to all schools is a recognition that while internationalisation is their primary focus, the development of a successful international student programme requires investment and the adoption of a business lens.
An investment focus at Wellington College
Mike Pallin, International Student Manager at Wellington College, says a viable international programme needs a minimum of 20 students.
“You pretty much need at least one full time support resource whether you have three international students or 20. And because of the diversity of the roles it can’t effectively be the same person. But you need an extra teaching resource for every additional 20-25 students you have.”
Marketing, recruiting and pastoral care and the job of homestay management and administration of students are two quite different roles that need two people. The job is too big for one person, Mike says, and marketing means being out of the country so you need to have someone in New Zealand who can respond quickly to the needs of students and their homestay families.
Often the international management role is part of another duty – Mike didn’t dedicate himself fully to the international manager role until he stepped down from Deputy Principal. He says having someone dedicated to what is an involved, 24/7 job is a factor in their success.
With 1,550 students, the school is aiming to reach about five percent or about 80 international students. This would appear to be the optimal number, says Mike, to ensure the school retains its unique nature and culture.
All services and support are fully funded from international income. Of the fees charged per student, about 40 per cent is returned as profit to the school. While some is returned directly to the international programme, it also funds the purchase of technology, sports facilities and other extras so all pupils benefit.
For more information on Wellington College’s approach to their international programme, check out this case study.
Botany Downs: Business-like human resources
Botany Downs has a relatively well-resourced international programme with eight on the team. Two administrative staff work a total of 47.5 hours, two homestay coordinators do 20 hours each a week, and the Dean of International Students works 16 hours a week. A separate Dean and support person for Chinese students works 20 hours per week, including student and marketing support.
Even so Jennifer says they are still stretched. “It would be great to have a guide that said “every student equates to so many hours per week”. I think it needs to be somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours per student, per week, excluding ESOL.
“If this was a business, with the turnover we have, there would be many more staff. There would be managers, marketers/sales staff/relationship managers, financial staff – international directors do all those jobs and it’s a big workload.”
“The person running the international department has to have the skills to run it like a business.”
But it’s not easy to find someone with both an education and a sales/marketing/business background who can span the strategic and operational sides of the enterprise, Jennifer says.
If staff don’t have the skills when they are employed, putting structures in place to upskill staff is critical, she says. Though often professional development required is not so easily accessed in the education sector as it would be in business.
The Dean of Chinese students was appointed two years ago. She’s a native Chinese speaker and provides teacher-aide support in the ESOL department as well undertaking marketing into China and providing support to the Chinese students.
“As our Chinese numbers increased we needed someone to help us navigate into this market. As a New Zealand resident she can relate really well to Kiwis as well as Chinese.”
Jennifer says the Dean of Chinese students Kathy Kuang has proved very beneficial in identifying the best agents to work with, consolidating their marketing efforts and helping to select the best students from those who apply.
For more information on how Botany Downs approach their international programme, check out this case study.
Run your programme like a business: James Hargest
While the cultural benefits should be the reason why schools have international students, it still needs to be run as a business, says Andy Wood, Principal of James Hargest College. This focus may require skills that might take principals out of their comfort zone.
Andy’s taken a proactive approach, having the College’s programme peer-reviewed to identify opportunities for improvement. More rigorous analysis of cost inputs was one of the recommendations.
They have identified all line costs associated with recruiting, teaching and hosting their international cohort. They looked at the costs by activity and the cost of recruitment per region. Last year they spent about $40,000 which more than normal because it included the startup costs of developing the German market.
He estimates between 40 per cent to 50 per cent of tuition fees are returned as profit to the school.
But it’s difficult to pinpoint, he says, as some indirect costs have been absorbed into overall school running expenses as the programme has grown and are not always easy to quantify.
Understanding what has been spent in the past will allow him to appropriately budget for the future, turning what has been traditionally been a reactive approach to marketing to a more planned strategy.
“By matching costs to the income generated, we can make better decisions on how much and where to spend our marketing dollar.”