GDPR and International Student Recruitment: Imperatives for Managing Ongoing Compliance

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set the world’s standard for personal data security. The relationship between GDPR and international student recruitment is that colleges and universities are now responsible for gaining more specific and proactive consent to communicate with students from the EU and keep hold of their personal data.

The May 25th, 2018 deadline for GDPR to be put into effect has already come and gone, but achieving GDPR compliance, in higher education or otherwise, isn’t a one and done activity. Colleges must have the right processes, technology, and experts in place to manage GDPR compliance continuously as they build new, and bolster existing, relationships with prospective international students.

So, what does this entail specifically?

Structured Tools & Processes for Capturing Consent


Opt-ins and consent are key in GDPR for student recruiting, so make sure you don’t miss any opportunities to capture opt-ins. Do an audit of every point of where you’re collecting inbound interest from prospective students – on your website or at overseas fairs, for example. Ensure you have GDPR-compliant forms in every place you’re collecting inquiries or interest from prospective international students.

As a reminder, GDPR-compliant forms contain explicit explanations as to what your audience is opting into and must capture positive opt-in behavior — in other words, no pre-checked boxes. And, you’ll need to give students the chance to view your privacy policy at this point.

GDPR Consent Checklist

GDPR and student recruitment 

Of course, forms are not the only way to capture consent. But, early trends across the UniQuest university partner group on GDPR and international student recruitment show that prospective students opt-in to communications at higher rates when consent is requested via a form rather than via free response channels like live chat or email.

Therefore, we recommend that on your website you point prospective international students toward submitting inquiries or requests to get in touch via forms rather than directing them to email your team.

Technology to Maintain Records of Communication Preferences

In the world of GDPR for student recruiting, consent is not a static fixture on a prospective student record. Communication preferences change. You’ll need to maintain an up-to-date record of consent for every prospective international student and make sure that those preferences are synced in real-time with the systems you’re using to communicate with students, whether that be through email marketing, social messaging applications, or phone calls.

Protocols & People to Manage “Legitimate Interest”

Consent is not a required path to compliance where an organization has “legitimate interests” to process personal data. “Legitimate interest” would apply when the person whose data you’re processing would reasonably expect for you to do so. In student recruitment, “legitimate interest” most often comes into play when students apply to your college or university. In this instance, it is completely reasonable that you process the student’s data and communicate the next steps in the admissions and enrollment journey to them.

Creating a communication plan around “legitimate interest” can be complex. Colleges and universities need to have the protocols to define the scenarios where “legitimate interest” is appropriate and the people in place to ensure students are engaged in the right way thereafter.

Learn More about GDPR Compliance in Higher Education with UniQuest

If GDPR is still a bit overwhelming, feel free to schedule a chat with us. As part of UniQuest’s international student conversion service, we manage everything to do with achieving and managing ongoing GDPR compliance among the international student audiences we’re engaging through the recruitment journey. UniQuest began preparing for GDPR when the regulation was passed in 2016, and from working closely with all of our university partners, we’ve grown all too familiar with the challenges of GDPR compliance in higher education.

UniQuest is committed to communicating with students in the right way, at the right time, via the right channels. Because of that commitment, we invested in reaching GDPR compliance with all student audiences, not only as a matter of policy but as a measure of best practice. Get in touch with us to discuss what we’ve learned and trends we’ve seen related to GDPR and international student recruitment.

Get the Latest Insights on International Student Recruitment

We’ve been managing multichannel student conversion journeys for years and we’re always happy to share our broader expertise and experience to help you further your international student recruitment strategies. Don’t hesitate to reach out to chat about our findings and how we can help you deliver high-converting recruitment journeys at scale.