What can Western HE brands offer to Chinese students?

If you are responsible for marketing a Higher Education institution to students in the West, you are likely to be preoccupied with the best way to target your offer. After all, what can Western HE brands offer to Chinese students, especially after the challenging past pandemic period?

With life getting back to normal – particularly so in China where the economic rebound has been impressive – now is the perfect time to assess your offer, your messaging and your marketing mix in order to best appeal to Chinese students. So let’s take a look at some of the angles you can promote to build engagement with prospective Chinese students, and work towards bringing them on board.

1. Your history

The cachet of a respected, time-served university is extremely powerful for status-hungry Chinese families. The better the university, the better their sense of pride – in common with Western families who all want their children to get a place at the best universities!

Respond by: Tailoring your messaging! If your HE institution has a history that is noteworthy in some way – or, for a modern institution, a position in industry or a specific sector that is particularly impressive for prospective students – promote it! Remember that a Western degree is expensive for Chinese families so you must be able to communicate elements of value to make a compelling case.

2. Your employment outcomes

Ultimately, students of all nationalities attend university to better their employment prospects. The greater the successes your graduates achieve in the jobs market, the better.

Respond by: Providing plenty of hard data, plus personal case studies, that explain the variety and attractiveness of future career paths and employability for graduates of your institution. This will show the quality of your degree programmes, and the relevance of your qualifications to certain career paths. Again, tailor your messaging and focus it as tightly as possible to relevant Chinese students.

3. Courses

Make sure you offer plenty of courses of the right quality – potentially up to PhD level in order to attract Chinese students at all levels. Many Chinese students will want to study ‘hard’ subjects that win them careers in industry and business – so ‘soft’ subjects are less likely to appeal. Invest in quality tutors, programmes and courses that offer genuine degrees with real cachet and value in the employment market. This is one investment that absolutely matters to your student base.

Respond by: providing plenty of detail about the courses you offer, noting that Chinese students – and their parents – are likely to have in-depth questions. Invest in Chinese speaking customer services, prospectuses, websites and other marketing channels and fill them with relevant information to pre-empt questions and show how valuable your Chinese audience is.

4. Your results

As well as the courses on offer it goes without saying that your results need to be good in order to win good students!

Respond by: really promoting your wins; from graduate scores through to onward employment outcomes. Really play up the good news stories with relevant case studies in video, text and podcast format – in Chinese as well as English!

5. The network

Chinese people value their networks and really develop them. So Chinese students will want to know that they are building a strong and potentially valuable network for their future career at their new university. Talk about the formal and informal networks that exist, as well as opportunities for work experience, secondments, clubs and other opportunities to make contacts.

Respond by: focus on networks that work well for Chinese students – and offer prospective Chinese students the chance to see and engage with other Chinese graduates for real impact.

6. The pastoral experience

Chinese students – and their parents – want to know that they will be looked after when they are studying away from home. It’s important to promote that this support exists and in a comprehensive, reliable way.

Respond by: providing plenty of detail and examples about the pastoral care on offer, including orientation sessions, accommodation services, translation services, access to health services, student information and more. Bring it to life as much as possible with plenty of user-generated content shared on social media, for authenticity.

7. The independence

Chinese students are attracted by the ability to study what they want, in countries without censorship, and to enjoy independence whilst experiencing life overseas. This freedom, balanced with a strong support system, is hugely appealing and Western HE institutions can really sell the breadth, richness and independence of the student experience on their campus.

Respond by: promoting the full experience of campus life to your students – whether digital or in-person. Again, case studies can be a great way to bring this to life and they can be user-generated and shared across your digital ecosystem.

8. Cultural awareness

In common with many students around the world, Chinese students want to enrich their educational experiences by learning about new cultures. This means learning the English language in an immersive way, understanding different cultural contexts and ways of life and generally broadening experiences in order to become global citizens.

Respond by: talking about your rich cultural heritage, on-campus global students, cultural events, tours, cuisines, language support and more. Share plenty of images that bring this topic to life!

9. Future relocation opportunities

Many Chinese students will be hoping to gain experience in the West that allows them to work there in future. Visas can be more easily obtained with a university education within the host country, and this will be appealing for many reasons.

Respond by: sharing case studies of alumni students from China who went on to work in the country of their university.

10. The chance to boost their reputation at home

Chinese students will invariably want to please their parents – who are likely to be footing the bill for their expensive education! Acceptance at a good Western uni will give the parents and families of Chinese students plenty of social standing at home!

Respond by: focusing on the quality attributes of your HE institution overall.

Invest in your channels

As you consider the drivers above, ask yourself whether your HE institution marketing channels are optimised for your Chinese students. Is your content in Chinese? Is it accessible via digital devices in China? Have you invested in Baidu PPC for the right keywords? Have you got a digital PR campaign in place in China – influencers recommending you, digital tours of your campus circulating on social media and other digital strategies in play? Does your app allow prospective students to chat with your representatives in Chinese? Can they download your Chinese language prospectus easily and see images and read content that really resonates with their unique needs, wants and desires – and those of their parents?

The help you need

If you feel that your marketing to Chinese students would benefit from a review and further development, please contact Market Me China. From Chinese website development and online marketing to HE social media management, our team of experts is here to help you grow your standing in the Chinese market. Contact us in the first instance to find out more.