From enquiry to enrolment: the essential toolkit

Article by Thijs van Vugt and Julian Longbottom

Thijs van Vugt and Julian Longbottom look at the skills and tools needed to be successful in helping students make the decision to enrol at your university.

In today’s competitive environment, international marketing, recruitment and enrolments are becoming more and more important to universities across the globe. The reality, however, is that most universities are doing very little marketing, but a lot of recruiting… or rather selling. Yet, the follow-up from enquiry to offer letter and enrolment could be done better at many institutions.

A recent StudyPortals and IELTS British Council study of the Top 500 universities in the world revealed that 21 per cent of the world’s Top 500 universities did not respond to enquiries at all. What’s more, 68 per cent of institutions that did reply, didn’t send a second email or reminder (StudyPortals & IELTS British Council, Through Student Eyes, 2014). Australian universities did fairly poorly compared to most others!

essentisl toolkit

Source: Through Student Eyes, StudyPortals & IELTS British Council, 2014

Responding to requests for information has been neglected in many traditional institutions where the focus has been on filtering applicants rather than proactively recruiting new students. But, it is imperative that we reach out when the interest is most relevant and that time is now. Being first also allows the recruitment team to manage expectations that subsequent callers must match or better.

More often than not admissions does not fall under the same responsibilities as marketing and recruitment. As a result admissions staff think their job is done once the offer letter has been sent. The reality, however, is very different. The job is not done until the student has signed on the dotted line and paid their tuition fee. Up until that moment the student can still decide to accept an offer from a competing university – particularly if that offer came from a better quality university or included a full or partial scholarship.

They will also accept an alternative offer if the competing university is faster in following up on the offer letter or done so in a more compelling way by (e.g. a personal phone call from the vice-chancellor or dean). But, most importantly, one has to follow-up and follow-up fast on the offer letter by making sure the student either accepts or rejects their place. Especially, when considering that students apply to at least three, if not five, universities at the same time.

If admissions staff do not have the requisite skillset to follow-up and close the deal (which the marketing and recruitment people hopefully do), then they should at least inform those who do about the admissions decision to follow-up. This is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems come into play.

Good CRM systems, designed specifically for education providers, allow all concerned to see the status of a prospective student’s enquiries, applications, offers, etc. as well as offering the possibility to have a student portal in which the student can track the status of his/her application in real time. At best these portals can be accessed on any device, anywhere in the world.

These systems also provide insight into the sources through which a student may have come in touch with the university (e.g. website), as they allow for source tracking. This will allow you to link enquirers, applicants and commencing students to your marketing activities, whether they be online education portals, AdWords campaigns, education fairs or agents. And once you have this information, calculating the return on investment of your marketing spent becomes quite straightforward.

Interested to find out more? Join our workshop ‘From enquiry to enrolment: the essential toolkit’ at AIEC in Adelaide this October!

Thijs van Vugt is Director and Partner at iE&D Solutions, Europe.
Julian Longbottom is Director Asia Pacific at StudyPortals.



IEAA Excellence Awards 2015: Nominations now open

Do you know anyone who’s made an outstanding contribution to international education in Australia? Perhaps you’ve been involved in a ground-breaking project or initiative that showcases innovation and best practice? Here’s your – or an esteemed colleague’s – chance to shine.

IEAA’s Excellence Awards recognise the outstanding contributions by individuals or teams to international education in Australia. They also provide a benchmark of excellence and best practice for the entire industry.

IEAA has awards in the following categories:

  • Distinguished Contribution
  • Excellence in Leadership
  • Best Practice
  • Innovation
  • Excellence in Professional Commentary
  • Outstanding Postgraduate Thesis

Nominations are open until Sunday 5 July 2015. Winners will be announced at AIEC on Tuesday 6 October 2015.

Find out how more at

IEAA Excellence Awards 2015

IELTS Research Grants – Apply now!

Up to AU$70,000/£45,000 available per project

Educational institutions and suitably qualified individuals are invited to apply for funding to undertake applied research projects in relation to IELTS for a period of one or two years.

Total grant funding of up to AU$215,000 (£130,000) may be provided with up to AU$70,000/£45,000 available per project.

Research areas of interest include test development and validation issues, issues relating to contexts of test use and  issues of test impact.

Applications must be submitted by 30 June 2015.

How to apply

Latest recipient

Congratulations to Glenys Merrifield who is the latest recipient of the grant, awarded last year to undertake projects funded by IDP IELTS Australia this year. Glenys’s research will be on ‘Revisiting attitudes and perceptions of IELTS stakeholders: An impact study into professional associations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.’

View a full list of recipients

New research

A number of research projects have recently been published and are available for free at

  • Investigating the appropriateness of IELTS cut-off scores for admissions and placement decisions at an English-medium university in Egypt, authored by Elizabeth Arrigoni and Victoria Clark, American University in Cairo (click here for details)
  • Literacy practices in the professional workplace: Implications for the IELTS reading and writing tests, authored by Tim Moore, Swinburne University of Technology; Janne Morton, University of Melbourne; David Hall, Swinburne University of Technology; and Chris Wallis, Swinburne College, Australia (click here for details)
  • Tracking international students’ English proficiency over the first semester of undergraduate study, authored by Ms Pamela Humphreys, Dr Michael Haugh, Dr Ben Fenton-Smith, Dr Ana Lobo, Dr Rowan Michael and Dr Ian Walkinshaw Griffith University, Australia

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while since my last post, but as the saying goes, ‘no news is good news’!

The last few months have been all about laying down the foundations of what is set to be another great conference this year in Adelaide. Here’s what’s been brewing behind the scenes, in a nutshell!

1) Registration is now open!

If you are interested in attending, registrations are now open. Remember that you can get the early bird discount until 31 July. There are also special discounts for IEAA members and IDP Education staff, as well as students, school staff and speakers. The online registration will also allow you to book accommodation, so don’t forget to book early to get your preferred hotel and room rate. Accommodation bookings are available through our online form, but some hotels might sell out faster than others, so make sure you check out the options, and get in early!

2) Program is taking shape!

I wanted to thanks everyone who submitted proposals this year. The committee appreciates the effort and time taken in preparing and developing ideas and topics to present at this year’s conference. Sadly, we were not able to accept all of the 150+ submissions received, but after much deliberation and a comprehensive review of all the submissions, we are excited about this year’s selection and speaker line-up. The program will offer a combination of interactive panel discussions and panel presentations, thematic sessions and presentations, and a great line-up of Australian and international speakers. Details of the preliminary program and speaker bios will be announced in July.

4) Pre-conference workshop program is now available!

AIEC pre-conference workshops are interactive sessions in which skills or concepts are taught, demonstrated, or explored, and they are rooted in participation and active learning.

You can check out the program here, and register anytime online via the online registration form.

3) Our media partners

We are very happy to have Times Higher Education back on board as media partner this year, and delighted to welcome The Pie News also as media partner for the first time this year. Both will be present in the exhibition, so make sure you make time to stop by their booths!

4) Exhibition

The exhibition hall at AIEC is always THE place for networking, making new connections and having business meetings while taking a break from attending sessions. We are delighted to welcome new faces and old ones back this year. To see who will be there, check out the exhibition directory on the website.

Exhibition booths are selling out fast, so if you are interested in exhibiting, please check out the sponsorship opportunities on the website, or contact our conference organisers, Think Business Events, at

Personally, I’m very excited to be heading off to the UK tomorrow to attend my first Going Global conference next week. This is particularly different for me, because I will actually get to go to sessions and hang out in the exhibition! Conferences are always a busy time for any organiser, so this time, for a couple of days, I get to experience it as a delegate, and that sounds like a lot of fun!



Welcome Joanne, and thank you Gordon!

The success of AIEC is largely due to the tireless efforts and contribution from the committee members.

gordon-scottI’d like to take this opportunity to thank Gordon Scott for his part as committee member for AIEC 2014, and warmly (and officially) welcome Joanne Barker on board as the newest member of the committee.

Joannjoanne-barkere Barker brings to the AIEC committee expertise in international student recruitment and admissions.  She has been Director International at the University of Adelaide since 2006.  Previously she worked at Flinders University, and has also worked in the Commonwealth education bureaucracy.  She was elected to the IEAA Board in 2012 and also serves on the SAIBT Board in Adelaide and the US-based TOEFL Board, representing Australasia. .

To see the full list of AIEC Committee members, please visit the website.

Regards, Josephine


Gamification… and more from Gabe Zichermann

Gamification… what does it have to do with international education?

Australian International Education Conference 2014

A whole lot by the time Gabe Zichermann walked off the stage at AIEC 2014! All of a sudden, a concept that was unfamiliar to most of us, became the buzz word of the day, and everyone was talking about it at morning tea!

We had the chance to talk to Gabe separately and ask him a few questions about why this concept may be of interest to those of us working in education and international education.

Check out what he had to say!

Find out more here:

Looking forward to Adelaide!

AIEC2015-logo-x-1-with-YEAR-and-website-colourIt’s only been a month, and yet Brisbane seems so far away! And Adelaide is 11 months away, and yet seems it so much closer!

We’ve received some really constructive feedback through the attendee survey, and the AIEC committee met yesterday to plan and consider the suggestions to ensure that we continue to improve the offer and the experience every year.

We know that there is still work to do to ensure that the program is well balanced and caters to all interests, sectors and backgrounds and that we continue to offer the best networking opportunities. This is at the front and centre of our planning. We hear you, and we are working towards a common goal!

If you did not get the chance to fill out the survey, please do not hesitate to drop me an email at if you think of something.

Also, just a reminder that:

Stay tuned!


Goodbye from AIEC and a few final thoughts…

I posted last night on Facebook ‘I’ve heard Brisbane is a lovely city..” to which my Sister-in-Law replied ‘didn’t get outside the hotel then?’ Isn’t it often the way that on our travels that we end up in some of the most beautiful and cultural places on Earth but we rarely get to experience them?

But that’s the nature of our work and it has been a really fantastic experience to be at AIEC here in Brisbane this year and mix with so many others from the industry and listen to so many high quality debates and talks.

Don’t forget to download the British Council’s report on Postgraduate student mobility trends to 2024. The presentation on this earlier today was excellent and focused on postgraduate mobility, forecasting key drivers of student mobility and postgraduate student flows to 2024. There are some key insights in there that can help us to forecast.

Finally, and before I jump on a plane, it was great to see Dan Gregory from The Impossible Institute present on ‘The things that pull our strings’. What a fantastic talk where Dan challenged us all to think laterally and to look at human behaviors. Dan talked about the age of unprecedented change that we live in, particularly in terms of the digital revolution. He talked about ‘expectation inflation’ where expectations keep going up and up and we have to deal with this and how higher expectations go hand in hand with potentially greater disappointments.

Dan challenged us not to stand still in our work and one of the things I really liked was the idea of ‘value alignment’ that we need to make our values our customers’ or clients’ values. Again, Dan echoed the theme of the importance of not crushing creativity but encouraging people to think sideways. He talked about the importance of diversity in the workplace and among people and how a diverse group is a more intelligent group. Diversity can help us avoid contextual blindness and therefore diversity of people, skills and attitudes within our places of work must be encouraged.

On that subject, I’m off to visit a another diverse group of people – my family – in Sydney who I haven’t seen for some time so I’m going to wave goodbye to Brisbane.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a guest blogger and experiencing AIEC 2014. I shall certainly be taking a lot of thoughts back to the IDP as well as trying to lobby my boss to allow me to come to AIEC 2015 in Adelaide. Although, in the interests of diversity perhaps a colleague should experience what I’ve experienced… Thanks to all and safe journey home.

Best wishes


Some thoughts on Study Abroad…

So here we are on the last day of the conference and I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed both the conference and being the guest blogger!

This Conference has made me think. Most of us have precious little time to actually sit and listen, to ponder new things, and to take note of new ideas which we can transfer to our own places of work – so events like this give us a valuable space to think outside the everyday.

The main highlight of this morning for me was listening to the superb academic debate that took place around the subject of the ‘student mobility revolution’. This was a panel discussion between the University of Western Australia, the University of Adelaide and Monash University.

One of the main themes that interested me was the disparity that exists across the social-economic status of those students who are engaged in study abroad. The tendency being that those in the higher social-economic bracket were more likely to study abroad and that those in the lower brackets were less likely to develop their own intercultural capital.

The term ‘intercultural capital’ was one that I hadn’t come across before. In this context this meant essentially all the factors that individuals use to get a job, to add value to themselves and to get through life and survive – people’s personal reservoir of cultural knowledge and know how. Professor Glen Stafford talked about universities being the gatekeepers of intercultural capital and providers of transformative experiences, but that inequality exists as students with lower social economic status don’t have the intercultural capital of those with higher economic status. For example, students in the higher bracket will often come to study abroad already with family support, financial resources etc so they may already have their reservoir half filled.

Professor Stafford gave some excellent examples about how they were addressing this problem, which included removing grade restrictions on study abroad programmes, changing language so that it doesn’t appear selective (for example ‘student ambassador’ may make some potential students feel as though they were not prestigious enough to aspire to this) and embedding study abroad into degrees/majors, among other initiatives. Essentially, trying to normalize and open up the study abroad experience.

This was a complex but highly engaging topic which I would recommend anyone to look in to further. I was lucky enough myself to work abroad at a very young age and it made a real difference to my life. It would be greatly beneficial for all it study abroad opportunities could be made even more accessible.






Rankings, Student Buyer Behaviour and some dancing…

On the penultimate evening of the conference I just wanted to quickly jot down my thoughts from today – if I can remember them that is, after all that dancing and the Journey to the Cosmos at the AIEC dinner!

Remembering that the Conference theme is ‘Inventing the Future’ I listened with interest to LinkedIn’s Michael Levine who presented on the use of LinkedIn’s data to harness the world’s first economic graph. This month LinkedIn launched their own university rankings and tools to help in the student decision making process. The rankings are based on career outcomes and users can search which schools are launching graduates into desirable jobs. The focus was also on alumni and how they can use the alumni tool to further validate their decision making, by asking alumni of their intended university to share their experiences. Both interesting new tools which I’ll be taking a look at in more detail.

Speaking of decision making… IDP’s Head of Research Lyndell Jacka presented excellent new research on International Student Buyer Behaviour and took us inside the minds of today’s international students. Just as an aside, I particularly liked a tweet that I saw earlier which said ‘It wouldn’t be AIEC without Lyndell’s little running men”! I must say I’m quite fond of them myself…

Lyndell took us through a fascinating selection of slides that pulled upon data collected from over 1,000 students who had used IDP’s services. The findings looked at student perceptions and student experience. Some slides considered Australia only and others looked at multi destinations (UK, US, New Zealand and Canada).

In comparison to last year there were no dramatic differences, although in terms of student perception Australia moved forward to equal the US for Affordability. Still with student perceptions, the US led the way for Quality of Education closely followed by the UK and Australia. New Zealand and Canada led the way for safety. In terms of Graduate Employment Opportunities the UK was lagging well behind (in fact the little running man looked as though he was about to expire..) and Australia was up in front marginally ahead of the US.

Looking at the gap between student expectations and experience, Australian students expectations had taken a downward shift with the US student experience improving and the UK staying about the same. Canada saw an improvement on last year.

An interesting new slide was on pathway programmes which showed that there was a low level of awareness of pathway programmes among students. The good news for overseas providers is that 72% of students said that they would look to study their pathway programme overseas.

There was so much information there to think about and Lyndell said an infographic would be available in the coming weeks so I’ll look forward to studying that in more detail.

I’m going to leave it there for tonight with the sounds of ‘Happy’ still ringing in my ears which the band played following a very persistent encore! What a great evening.