In order to serve students, agents, and institutions, INTO University Partnerships is announcing a bold new approach to establish a network of premium advising and counselling centres in-market.
The "market-facing brand" University Access Centers will serve as a hub for INTO staff, local employees of internationally operating higher education institutions, counsellors, and educational agencies.
The UACs will be made accessible to INTO recruiter agency partners so they may interact with potential students and parents. More broadly, universities will be encouraged to use INTO to hire local representatives to work out of a UAC.
According to Olivia Streatfeild, CEO of INTO, being close to the student decision-making process is essential in a changing student recruitment ecosystem.
“We believe international student mobility can be best enabled through a perfectly balanced approach of in-market presence supported by local expertise and advanced technology, driving a seamless enrollment process,” she said.
A £7 million investment into physical, local, and digital infrastructure in 14 sites around the world has supported the rollout of UACs to date.
As a result of a global partnership with the British Council, UACs will also provide computer-based IELTS testing in-market in important countries, establishing a direct connection with students in those countries and giving them another reason to visit the centres.
In Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, INTO launched flagship centres following an early pilot in Suzhou, China.
A UAC and "multi-function" office is being renovated from the INTO Hong Kong Office, and new UACs are being built in Thailand, Colombia, Indonesia, and New Delhi, India, with plans to open in 2022.
UACs in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Dubai, South Korea, and Taiwan are expected to open in 2023.
The launch of INTO's new strategy comes with an intriguing period of rising master agent-based digital applications and significant investment in related technology.
“Our research shows that prospective international students and their parents are looking for a seamless recruitment experience and their decisions are enabled by face-to-face interactions in an increasingly info-flooded environment,” stated Streatfeild.
She referenced a new INTO survey conducted in Vietnam that showed 92% of the students and parents surveyed thought it was important or very important to be able to meet and talk with an agent or locally based university representative.
The UAC model is also interesting since the organization that defines itself as "education partnering" will give institutions that it doesn't already partner with the ability to embed an in-country representative within a UAC.
As a result, INTO will now offer in-country professional education services, following models similar to those provided by Acumen, Grok, and CBBC in China.
The business provided a statistic to support this: Since the Ho Chi Minh City UAC opened in February 2020, partner universities with employees stationed there have seen new student enrollments rise by 115%. (and up 32% since pre-pandemic intake).
“In-market presence also significantly reduces the carbon footprint for universities having to fly staff to source markets several times in a year,” added Streatfeild.
In order to establish a whole experience ecosystem, INTO, which Streatfeild has headed for a year, intends to give dynamic information and counselling sessions in-person, enable remote consultations or presentations, and communicate with returning alumni.
“This includes measures such as student and agent ‘myAccount’ facility, online application tracking platform and predictive analytics,” Streatfeild revealed.
This will be further complemented by “boosting conversion teams based in source markets with added benefit of local knowledge and language expertise, with UACs serving as a prime example”.