Sponsored students remain an important part of the UK international education market. Therefore, governments and embassies key stakeholders to meet.
StudyWorld is serious about helping educators access this market, which is why we are the Gold Sponsor of the Embassy Education Conference on Wednesday 17 July at the University of London. If you’re there, come and talk to Tim Barker, StudyWorld Commercial Director and Louise Gow, English UK’s Agent Relations Manager, about how we can help you access and work with these hard-to-reach markets.
Working with embassies and cultural bureau staff can be challenging for educators. We asked Andy Buckland, English UK’s senior Middle Eastern consultant, for his advice on making the most of these contacts and battling the bureaucracy to get sponsored students in your school, college, centre or university.
1. Contact embassies regularly
“Embassy and cultural bureau staff have a very high turnover as people are replaced or move to different roles. The main challenge is to find the right person for the right task and stay on top of who is in which position. Get in touch as often as possible to keep on top of this,” says Andy, recalling a recent situation where a school’s emails asking for payment for a sponsored student went unanswered. A call to the embassy’s communications director identified the new employee, and payment was made within weeks.
2. Meet face to face as often as possible to secure sponsored students
“When you have a chance to put your name across, put yourself in the forefront – StudyWorld is great for that. The bigger embassies have thousands of sponsored students and that makes it hard for them to remember one group of students or one school among hundreds. I always advise getting in there and giving your school or university name first and then your own.”
3. Earn the trust of embassies
“When you get the opportunity to meet embassy and cultural bureau staff at StudyWorld or other events, it’s important to create a strong impression about your brand, your centre and your product and send regular updates about your marketing in their region, and how many students from the region you’ve taught in the past 12 months.”
4. Be prepared for slower responses – “a communication is never wasted”
“Capture their attention but don’t be afraid about not hearing back – embassy staff, particularly those from Gulf countries, are likely to respond only when they are interested in a course or want to book,” he says, adding: “They’ll have you in their inbox or database and will come back to you. A communication is never wasted and when you next talk to them, reference the last one. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t last week, they enjoy that you’ve built up a rapport over a period of time.”
5. Find out about contracts
There’s no central portal or database for new or upcoming contracts, says Andy: the way to find out about opportunities is to set up a good communications network. “It’s mainly word-of-mouth: say you meet an embassy or cultural bureau at StudyWorld and follow up with one representative. You suggest you would be keen to get to know their department. He or she may give you a couple of contacts which you follow up, meet them in person and ask to be kept in touch if there’s a contract coming up. Often you’ll get them come back to you – or you’ll get the information from someone else in the embassy as they share your details internally.”
6. Small centres have as much of a chance as big ones
“A lot of smaller centres often write off working with embassies purely because they think they don’t have the contacts or aren’t big enough. But embassies do use many small schools, often in surprising places, because they are very happy with the service they provide. So don’t be put off by your size or reach. If you have the right personal approach and you can put your product and brand across, you’re in as good a position as bigger educators,” says Andy, adding: “More and more embassies are looking at the quality of the product rather than just placing all their students in the same place as they historically did. It’s more about experience and the quality of the offering. It’s a really good thing for smaller providers as it means they are not just written off.”
7. Work with colleagues to share sponsored students
“Many schools now have larger contracts coming through and they don’t want to take all the students for themselves – you don’t want 50 sponsored students of one nationality at once. It’s good to work together and share it, and some schools may find themselves involved because a colleague has got the contact,” says Andy.
8. Be confident
“The big thing is having confidence to build that relationship, especially for smaller providers. Use StudyWorld to put your brand and name and school out there and build your relationship– they’ll come back months later. They enjoy the personal touch and that’s the most important thing. StudyWorld is the perfect opportunity to leave a lasting impression.”
Interested in meeting a wider variety of buyers and agents at StudyWorld and getting more sponsored students? Book before our appointment system goes live in early July to meet the most sought-after delegates.