The beautiful campus at Frensham Heights was the venue for the seventh annual ISBI Marketing and Admissions Conference.
We were delighted to present a session on the Chinese market. In recent years, client schools have started to ask us about China because they were experiencing a rise in applications from Chinese families. Nearly 25% of overseas students in UK schools now come from China. Some schools voiced concerns about recruitment and the difficulty of finding the right Chinese pupils for their school. Agent relationships were also discussed and whether their school’s ‘official’ story was being told. Other schools were worried about how well the Chinese pupils were integrating into their communities. We started to explore the cultural, economic and social drivers that prompt Chinese families to send their children to schools in the UK. We believe it is important for schools to understand this important stakeholder group in order to make more effective decisions regarding marketing and admissions strategies.
With a land mass of 9.6million sq km, a population of 1.4billion and an economy in which growth rates have averaged 10% over 30 years, no-one is in any doubt that China is a dynamic force shaping the world today.
We started our session with a brief background to China, setting the scene for the current Chinese thirst for UK education. We also outlined some of the recent changes in both the UK and China that have an impact on the situation.
In a nutshell:
- UK schools are facing an increase in numbers of full boarding places available as parents favour day places and weekly boarding. These places need to be filled
- There has also been an explosion of UK schools in China. There are currently 15 British campuses educating 8238 pupils and this number is growing as regulations regarding the education of Chinese nationals in international schools are relaxed
- There are new players in the UK independent schools market with strong Chinese ties, Kensington Prep and Kensington Wade
- Relaxation of one child policy in China
- UK examination boards in China: AQA in collaboration with the Chinese Educational Society means that the British curriculum is now taught in some Chinese schools
- Reawakening and tolerance of religion in China means there is increased interest in faith schools overseas
- First generation of UK-educated Chinese have the knowledge to approach schools direct for their children. This is starting to change the dynamic in the relationship with agents
- Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world and is now being promoted in UK schools via the Mandarin Excellence Programme
- Schools like Concord College and Chelsea Independent College that were traditionally seen as international schools are now considered mainstream and are enjoying high positions in the league tables
- Pre- A level and IB courses for Chinese pupils are increasing in popularity as Chinese parents and UK schools realise the need for Chinese pupils to ‘acclimatise’ before starting school in the UK .
We concluded by advising our audience to embrace the relationship with China.
This can be done by (among other factors):
- Keeping an eye on market movements
- Maintaining good insights into audience requirements and understanding the nuances
- Making brand communication clear and consistent in both languages.
If you would like to talk to us further about our research into the Chinese market and how it could benefit your marketing and admissions strategy, please do get in touch.
Remember: China matters!