The University Access Centers will be a ‘market brand’ and the centers will be a hub for INTO staff, in-country staff from academic institutions working around the world, as well as consultants and education agencies.
INTO partner recruitment agencies will be invited to use the UAC and engage with prospective students and parents. More broadly, universities will be invited to recruit in-country representatives through the INTO to work with the UAC.
Olivia Streatfeild, CEO of INTO, told The PIE that she believes proximity to student decision-making experiences is vital in the changing student recruitment ecosystem.
“We believe that international student mobility can best be enabled through a perfectly balanced approach to market presence, supported by local expertise and advanced technology, which facilitates a seamless enrollment process,” she said.
UAC’s deployment is supported by £7m of physical, on-premise and digital infrastructure investment to date across 14 locations worldwide.
A global partnership with the British Council also means that UACs will deliver computer services IELTS market testing in key countries, building direct understanding with students in specific countries and another reason for students to visit the centers.
“By 2023, we will be running computer-based IELTS and other tests in at least 7 UAC centers around the world, putting partner universities in touch with thousands of prospective students,” Stratfeild told The PIE.
After an early pilot project in Suzhou, China, INTO opened flagship centers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam.
INTO’s Hong Kong office is being repurposed to become a UAC and “multi-purpose” office, and new UACs are being developed in Thailand, Colombia, Indonesia and New Delhi, India, to be launched in 2022.
In 2023, UAC is scheduled to open in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Dubai, South Korea and Taiwan.
“With an investment of around £7m, we will have 14 centers around the world by the end of 2023, giving us an unrivaled presence in the fastest growing international education markets,” Streatfeild said.
INTO’s new strategy comes at an exciting time, with the growth of digital applications routed through the principal agent platform and huge investment in these technologies.
Since 2020, the number of new students has increased by 115% at partner universities that are staffed by HCMC UAC.
“Our research shows that prospective international students and their parents are looking for a seamless recruitment experience, and their decisions are driven by personal interaction in an environment that is becoming increasingly information-filled,” said Stratfield.
She cited a new survey in Vietnam by the INTO, which found that 92% of students and their parents surveyed considered it important or very important to have the opportunity to meet and speak with an agent or representative of a local university.
The UAC model is also interesting in that the self-styled “educational partnership” organization will offer institutions it does not yet partner with the opportunity to embed a UAC in-country representative.
Streatfeild stressed: “For our university partners, INTO will manage local staff, connect with powerful recruitment networks, spend ten times more time in market and deliver better results.”
She explained that market dynamics – and student expectations – indicate that having representatives in the country can be economically sound as well as effective for transformation.
In support of this, the company cites statistics: Since opening in February 2020, partner universities with staff at UAC Ho Chi Minh City have increased the number of new students by 115% (and by 32% compared to pre-pandemic admissions).
“A market presence also significantly reduces carbon emissions for universities, which are forced to send staff to source markets several times a year,” Strathfield added.
INTO, which Streatfeild will lead for a year, plans to host dynamic information and in-person counseling sessions, provide virtual counseling or presentations, and engage with returning alumni to create a full-circle experience ecosystem.
“This includes measures such as an online application tracking platform and predictive analytics”
A key aspect of this strategy is improving the global digital infrastructure with a focus on seamless application transformation.
“This includes measures such as ‘myAccount’ for students and agents, an online application tracking platform and predictive analytics,” Strathfield said.
This will be further complemented by “increasing conversion teams based in source markets with the added benefit of local knowledge and language expertise, with UAC serving as a prime example”.