engaging prospective students from china

Understanding Culture Differences in Communication When Reaching Prospective Chinese Students

According to IIE’s latest Open Doors Report, the US hosts 350,755 students from China making up nearly a third of international students studying in the States.

As significant a recruitment market as China is, even small improvements with your engagement, and consequently yield, of prospective students from China can make a meaningful impact on your overall enrollment. Following up on interest generated via partnerships, TNE, agents or direct channels, we’ve identified some unique communication qualities to engage prospective students from China more effectively.

Mandarin proficiency is important, but first introduce yourself in English

Chinese students can be very sceptical of phone calls from unrecognised phone numbers – I’m sure most of us can relate.

One of our UQ Enrollment Advisors, who is a native Mandarin speaker, has found that it works best to establish trust by first introducing the university she supports in English. She said even when the students can hear that she is Chinese, speaking Mandarin from the start is not well-received.

But, she noted, once trust is established she generally finds it best to switch to Mandarin. Often, Mandarin speakers are uncomfortable using English over the phone and will race to end conversations that are in English. In Mandarin, students tend to be happier to chat and you’ll find yourself having long conversations full of discerning questions around majors and career opportunities.

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, so it is best to get a sense for how the conversation is going to assess if it’s better to continue with English or make a move to Mandarin. Emma Gutteridge, Senior International Officer responsible for the Asia Pacific region at London South Bank University, finds that keeping with English in conversations can be a really exciting experience for some students.

“During a phone-a-thon campaign, I called a student from China who told me that I was the first person she had ever talked to from the UK. She was so excited to talk to the University and with someone who was in the UK; continuing the conversation in English really helped build that enthusiasm and so it was a better experience for the student to continue conversing in English than switching to Mandarin on this occasion.”

Exhibit authority

Chinese students place a lot of value on hierarchy. Establishing authority in your area of responsibility and maintaining a more formal tone in your communications will make you a more valued resource from your University.

A UQ Enrollment Advisor who manages the phone outreach with Chinese applicants and admitted students on behalf of one of our clients said that she is often asked for more detail about her role and seniority within the University. She described that if you fail to represent yourself with authority, students will cut the conversation short.

Emma has had similar experiences, also mentioning that when it comes to questions about their chosen major, Chinese students would much prefer to speak directly with faculty as the experts in that particular academic field.

Appeal to the ROI of studying at your University

Chinese students and their parents highly value education and are prepared to invest in overseas higher education. When considering universities, Chinese students will scrutinize their options to make sure they’re investing in the institutions most likely to help them build a bright future…in other words, which institutions will set them up for a successful career. Ranking and brand reputation will shape their opinions the most.

“They will add up all the pros – accreditations, student success record, location. Your institution may tick all the boxes but ranking will trump everything.”, says Emma.

This is reflected in the offer decision reasons we track from Chinese students. University ranking and course ranking are the top decision reasons we hear from this market.

While ranking is hugely influential, Emma believes that universities have an opportunity to mitigate the power of rankings via effective branding campaigns. “Name recognition is important. If the institution is well-known amongst friends, family and peers, students will assume it’s a good university.”