By DIRK MULDER and GRETCHEN DOBSON
Alumni populate the picture institutions present to students they are looking to recruit, at least at an undergraduate level and perhaps somewhat to recruit coursework masters.
Key selling points include alumni employment rates, salaries, satisfaction and the notion that “if you study here you will more likely be successful and by the way, here are a couple of ‘well to do’ alumni stories to see we’re not fudging the truth.”
All true and institutions are very good at picking the stories and citing the best bits of Australian survey data to promote.
But while brochures and websites present upbeat views, it does not take much effort on-line to search “review Australian universities” and discover rating sites and comments such as “don’t even consider this university”. We found that exact quote in a minute.
So how in this new environment can institutions build a voice that is authentic and valuable?
Engaging and activating alumni is one clear way.
It is vitally important to engage your alumni and to know as much as you can about how their experience plays a pivotal part in their post-study life. Three things to think about:
Learning from the past with a view to the future: Understanding your alumni, their experiences and their life today allows a much richer view of their experience at your institution and what benefit it gives them to advance their life. It is a key underpinning rationale for your students undertaking an international education in the first place.
International alumni are returning home with new credentials to advance their career. They are an informed and trusted fabric in key major source countries, where there may now serve as a trusted source for the next generation students.
Creating champions: Students find information on overseas studies from an increasingly diverse range of sources and can obtain differing views.
Sources include: the institution, agents, websites, news articles, family and friends. One source that is authentic and largely irrefutable is someone who has attended the institution previously. They provide personal perspectives which go beyond life on campus and provide feedback on the utility of their degree in their homeland and how valuable it is perceived today.
Champions are not just valuable in spruiking the institution to new students. As they mature, alumni can become champions within business or academic communities for the institution or country.
They may also find themselves financially successful and on the donor list of an institution.
A ready support network for recent graduates: Having a rich network of professionals who can assist in mentoring, and helping new graduates transition back to life at home or into a new country, if an Australian moving offshore, is surely one of the most valuable immediate gains an institution can make.
A mentor who has made the post-study transition is extremely powerful.
Practically, a network like this assists with job seeking: where to look, with whom to speak, and how to “translate” the recent international experience into rhetoric employers find attractive. Alumni networks can assist with introductions to other networking and community groups such as local focused chambers of commerce groups and business networkers
This type of post-sales support should be a priority for every institution that is keen to establish themselves as an engaged participant in countries where they have made investments and helps recent graduates maintain a connection with their institution during a critical time when the relationship is easily dropped.
Recent Data-Driven Insights from Alumni: Recent research released by Cturtle identified 1.3m alumni across the ASEAN, greater China and Subcontinent regions and tracked 162 000 of them with 16,830 responding to their latest survey.
Areas of investigation included career outcomes, time to find a post-graduation job and satisfaction with the institution and nation where they studied.
There are seven categories of destinations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA, Europe and other). Countries of birth are China, HK (SAR), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries.
The data is arranged by country for the purposes of the report however individualised reports can be arranged. The insights are fascinating …
A positive international experience is what most alumni consider their experience to have been. Australia at 86 per cent satisfaction is in the middle of the pack with the USA (89 per cent), Canada (88 per cent) and Europe (87 per cent) above. New Zealand is also at 86 per cent while the UK is below at 83 per cent.
Satisfaction with return on investment is similar, with Australia at 69 percent. Canada and Europe are highest at 74 per cent, USA is 73 per cent, New Zealand is 70per cent, while the UK again languishes at 65 per cent.
Perceptions of a positive international experience over time appear to grow fonder with age. People surveyed who are still students rated 77 per cent, graduated less than 3 years ago were 83 per cent, graduates for three-seven years were 84 per cent and graduates seven years plus years was the group with the happiest memories, at 86 per cent.
Satisfaction with return on investment over time also appears to increase with age with “I’m still a student” at 63 per cent, graduated less than three years ago at 64 per cent, graduated three-seven years ago: 63 per cent, and graduated seven plus years ago: 71 per cent.
Work: 71 per cent of international alumni find a job within three months of graduation with post graduates tending to take slightly more time than undergraduates to find employment.
Pay rates: indicate that graduates from US institutions earn the most for their first job, with one in three earning more than US$2 000 per month. Even with current jobs, USA alumni are still among the highest earners, with more than 40 per cent earning $US6 000 a month
Actively promoting country of education: All alumni are willing to recommend their country of education. Alumni who have graduated for a longer time tend to have more positive sentiments and current students are least likely to promote their CoE.
To best promote the country of education, international students need to feel welcomed in the country and satisfied with the working opportunities there. In terms of being made to feel welcome, Australia comes in equal third on the index with Canada and New Zealand above, Europe on par and USA, UK and other below.
Perceptions on overall living costs: Students rate Australia alongside the UK as the least satisfied with cost at 48 per cent. Canada is the most favoured at 60 per cent with the USA and Europe tied for second at 59 per cent.
In being made to feel welcomed: Australia is middle of the road at 78 per cent while Canada and New Zealand headline with 89 per cent and 88 per cent respectively. The US (76 per cent) and UK (74 per cent) are at the bottom of the list.
About Cturtle and the research: Cturtle Limited is an employment network for returnee international students and alumni who have studied in Australia, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Europe. An overview of the report is here.
Conclusion: The voice and aspiration of students Australian institutions seek to educate into the future requires more engaged localised alumni who, in turn, will provide another fan base. Institutions who do not invest in their international alumni will inevitably fall behind in both perception of service and support and that, in turn, will impact international student recruitment.
This paper is the first of a five-part series aimed at analysing some of the key rationales for servicing International alumni better and what underpins these. Next week, repeat business
Dirk Mulder is an international education business developer, strategist and market analyst with over 15 years’ experience in international education including director positions in international operations at Murdoch University, Curtin University and the University of South Australia. Contact him @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Gretchen Dobson is a global engagement strategist, author and academic with over 27 years’ experience across five continents. Gretchen advises leaders on strategies and solutions that enable institutions, organizations and governments to identify, track and manage relationships with their global stakeholders. Contact her @ email@example.com