What Chinese students want to know about Western education brands

Western universities have a huge potential market when it comes to China. Chinese students are very motivated to study at good Western educational institutions where they can further their knowledge, language skills and cultural awareness, and have rich experiences that will stand them in good stead within the global economy.

So what does this mean for Western education brands, particularly in terms of communicating the key values and attributes that matter to Chinese students? Here’s what Chinese students – and their parents – want to know before they choose their preferred Western university.

1. What value will your institution provide to my CV?

First and foremost, in common with most Western students, prospective Chinese students want to know what value your institution and their course of interest will provide. This is measured in terms of likely employment outcomes.

Takeaway: Promote your university brand reputation and rankings, your students’ successes and offer a mix of case studies and hard data that demonstrates the quality and relevance of your programmes to future career paths. Really promote results of all kinds with a mix of content across your marketing channels. This could include advertising in target Chinese media and attending educational events in China to promote your offer.

2. What is the history of your university?

Chinese students, and their parents, value the status of a respected, historic university with a powerful reputation. Parents will fight hard to get their ambitious children into the best institutions as it gives them social cachet.

Takeaway: Work your messaging carefully to showcase your institution’s key success factors. This might be its ancient history, or it might be the reputation that the institution has built within a certain professional sector.

3. What courses do you offer?

Chinese students tend to want ‘hard’ subjects that will fast-track them towards careers in business and industry. They want the option to study at higher levels to further their career prospects and give themselves the best possible start.

Takeaway: Offer courses that go up to PhD level and consider offering an MBA as well. Really invest in the quality of your tutors and lecturers – a well-known lecturer with a presence in the Chinese market industry can be a selling point alone. Create detailed prospectuses and websites in Chinese and offer Chinese-speaking advisors to answer questions. This shows respect for your Chinese customers.

4. What are the networking opportunities?

Networks are a powerful business tool, and they are particularly important to Chinese culture. Prospective Chinese students will be very interested in the types of formal and informal networks that exist at your institution and the value these could provide to their professional futures.

Takeaway: Share details of formal and informal networks, clubs, secondments, work opportunities and other types of relevant networks. Include details of focused networks for Chinese students, especially as they navigate life in a new country.

5. What kind of support is there?

Moving from China to study in the West is a huge transition and it can be daunting, particularly for concerned parents! So it’s important to reassure Chinese families that their students will be well supported and looked after when they are away from home. This means putting the right support mechanisms in place, from Chinese-speaking administrators at the university to orientation sessions, Chinese social groups and Chinese language welcome packs.

Takeaway: Work through the process a new Chinese student would experience and ensure the right support is in place to help them navigate accommodation, register with health services, access information and translation and meet new friends. Then communicate this with rich, user-generated content, such as videos shared on the institution’s Chinese social media channels, created by other Chinese students. Informal schemes such as mentoring and pairing can also be a great source of support and reassurance.

6. What will the cultural experience be like?

Chinese students are excited by the prospect of experiencing life in the West, and to gain their independence. So long as this type of freedom is backed up with necessary support, Western universities have a powerful selling point when it comes to their culture.

Takeaway: Invest in rich, varied content that showcases the breadth and variety of campus life to Chinese students. Create videos that show the campus, the social opportunities, the food and the opportunities for local travel. Share student videos and content and offer orientation sessions to newcomers that include guided tours and support with cultural norms and differences. It is also helpful to showcase the language lessons and support you offer to newly arrived Chinese students, who may need a little time and assistance to navigate their new host environment with ease and confidence.

7. Could I live and work in this country after I graduate?

Chinese students may well want the opportunity to work in a Western country after they graduate, so it’s important to share details on likely relocation opportunities. This will demonstrate how your institution could act as a springboard to a rewarding career in a relevant industry, setting them up for the valuable career that Chinese students, and their ambitious parents, desire.

Takeaway: Case studies are a great way to bring this kind of information to life and to show the progression pathways that other Chinese students have taken, from study to graduation and beyond into the Western workplace. Promote ties with local employers, links with local technology, business and science hubs and structured opportunities with partner employers, for example.

8. What is the ROI?

Chinese families see Western education as offering high-value qualifications, cultural experience, language skills and employment opportunities for their children. A high-cachet Western university can be an incredible source of pride for Chinese families, who expect to understand what the return on their investment will look like. Many of these families have significant financial resources at their disposal; it is the job of the institution’s marketing department to clarify the value and leverage that this investment will bring.

Takeaway: Beyond a carefully-delivered, nuanced and multi-channel marketing and communications plan, tailored to the specific needs of Chinese students, the message is to really focus and show care and attention to this particular group of customers. By demonstrating this type of respect and consideration for their needs, you can demonstrate to Chinese students and their families that your institution is the right one for them and that their children will be safe and supported, whilst achieving their goals and ambitions for an exciting future career.

Find out more

Market Me China works with Western higher education institutions to help them develop effective Chinese digital marketing strategies that engage and convert potential students. Our team of native Chinese-speaking digital marketing professionals works with HE institutions flexibly to provide the insight, skills and hands-on marketing support they need to experience success with this exciting, growing and lucrative market of customers. Please contact us to find out more.