There is hardly a college or university that is not planning to expand its base of international students in the United States and yes, there is hardly a college or university in the United States or anywhere in the world that is not facing hurdles and unexpected challenges in achieving this goal. International student recruitment is more than "tours" to a country. It entails understanding the political, social, economic, and cultural systems and nuances of the country, learning to navigate these systems successfully, and more important, creating lasting and deep roots in the country to have a sustained presence in the country. Without a long-term, well thought out strategic plan for campus internationalization, efforts to recruit international students becomes a futile endeavor in which colleges throw good money at transient goals.
There are three pillars at the core of a good internationalization strategic plan.
1. Define what your institution means by internationalization. Is it attracting a few students from Canada? Is it attracting some students from all over the world? Is it focused on certain parts of the world, based on existing ties your institution may have with that part of the world? Ask yourself the question, "What do we mean by internationalization and what parts of the world make the most sense to us and why?"
2. Penetration is the key: Once you have identified the regions of the world from which you wish to attract students, plan a marketing blitz in that country. Often, many US institutions naively assume that simply because they are well-known in the US, they must be well known and well regarded in other parts of the world. This is not true. You must build your brand and your image in the country or countries of your choice. Once you have a brand, then word of mouth will attract high quality students to your campus and you can systematically reduce your marketing dollars.
3. Understand the educational system of your targeted country: This is key to attracting high quality students. You must have intimate knowledge about the educational system and standards of your target country. Understand the quality factors that define the educational parameters in your targeted country. Gain in-depth knowledge about the grading systems and do your research to find out the aspirations of good students so that your marketing is effective.
In short, campus internationalization is not about planting a few flags on your campus drive. It requires a passion and commitment to truly understand other cultures and yes, it requires enormous patience and perseverance.
Dr. Uma Gupta is the President of Global Cube, a company that serves as a gateway between US colleges and universities and those in India.