The reduction in number of students applying for admissions to the Central University has prompted the management of the university to seek interventions through a research. The performances of the Central University in the past years have been good. It is an indication that the university was headed in the right direction in providing postgraduate studies for international students. However, the uncertainties surrounding the reduction in number of applications for admissions to the university must raise questions concerning the university’s future. An independent research can provide vital information because the institution does not have comprehensive information on the international market trends of education (Bohman, 2014).
Through a research by an independent company, the university management can identify the mysteries that have caused a reduction in number of applicants this year. The independent research is recommendable since it does not include conflicting interests from the stakeholders. Moreover, the university management has the benefit of continuing with its core business operations instead of diverging into the research. The research is expected to expose the reasons behind the reduction in number of applicants. Most importantly, the company conducting the research has offices in the three targeted countries (USA, China, and Nigeria). Therefore, the company can gather information from three continents without incurring large costs and at the same time obtaining comprehensive information. The information obtained from this research will aid the management of the Central University to implement interventions (Puan et al, 2013).
International students improve cultural diversity in a university. The enrolment of the international students to the Central University depicts a global image of the institution. Smith (2008) indicates that international students improve university studies since local students are challenged by the international students to embrace cultural and racial diversity that is important in higher education institutions. On the other hand, it boosts the financial strength of the university due to the funds obtained through fees. However, attracting and retaining these students poses difficulties to many universities. For this reason, the university must use effective marketing strategies to achieve this. For instance, the Central University has created a department to promote its courses overseas. The department has not proved effective as portrayed by the decline in number of international applicants this year. Therefore, the university must use other marketing strategies which are the aim of this research (Smith, 2008).
One of strategies used by many universities to promote their courses internationally is the use of alumni programs. The alumni programs are extended to the target markets where the successful alumni of the universities act as ambassadors for the universities in their respective countries. The alumni market their former institutions such as the Central University in their countries by attributing their success to the university. Additionally, they assist the universities in promoting their courses in their home countries; something that has proved effective to some extent. With the growing network of social media sites, the alumni can form groups that depict their appreciation and support for the institutions. The alumni groups can be of great assistance to the institutions in the recruitment of international students from their home countries. Furthermore, the alumni groups can help students from their home countries to settle in the universities after their recruitment (Greenall, 2012).
Many institutions offer scholarships to international students from their target countries to market the institutions. The scholarships are offered at subsidised fees to bright and promising students form the target countries. The students recruited through the scholarships are given many privileges so that they can become successful and promote the university in their countries. For example, University of Sheffield markets its courses in Nigeria by offering scholarships to students from the country. It is a strategy that can attract other students from Nigeria and other African countries. Generally, the scholarships act as ice-breakers so that other potential students can follow the steps of their countrymen by joining the universities. As a result of this, many universities in the United Kingdom have partnered with different programs in Nigeria to enable them offer scholarships to Nigerian students. The programs include: the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), the FORD Foundation International Fellowship Programme, and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) (Rich and Nitin, 2013).
Secondary research can provide vital information to assist the Central University in attracting and retaining international students from China, Nigeria, and the United States. The internet is a crucial source of secondary data for this research (Smith, 2008). The websites of many organizations that support higher education in the target countries such as Nigeria’s PTDF, FORD Foundation, and NDDC can provide information concerning international students. The internet provides up-to-date information that can be filtered and retrieved through search engines.
Books provide detailed information about a specific subject thus making them an important source of secondary data for this research. For instance, information on higher education in China can be studied through books. They are of great importance since they offer comprehensive information regarding a specific subject. Newspapers and magazines can also provide information regarding higher education. For example, occurrences in higher education can be tracked through popular newspapers such as the New York Times in the United States. However, obtaining detailed information from the newspapers and magazines can be difficult (Bradley, 2010).
Secondary data is the data collected to solve other market problems. Secondary sources of data forms a basis for planning and conducting primary research in one of the target countries such as Nigeria. Once secondary data has been collected and analysed, the researchers will have ample information to decide on collecting primary data. Secondary data is not comprehensive enough to develop strategies to attract and recruit international students in the Central University. This is because the secondary research cannot provide complete information from one source. Moreover, changes in the topic may limit the credibility of the secondary sources of data since their contents may be out-dated. All in all, secondary data can reduce the complexities associated with the collection of primary data as well as the unnecessary expenses. Secondary sources are easily accessible thus reducing costs incurred through travelling and complicated fact finding procedures (Bradley, 2010).
After definition of the market problem, the researchers will commence the exploration of secondary sources of data. The target market is the higher education trends in Nigeria. The sources to be used include books, newspapers, magazines, the internet, databases, and historical records. The internet and books will be the major sources of secondary data since they have detailed and specific information on the market problem. For instance, Nigerian government agencies’ websites can provide social, economic, and demographic information. In most cases, the statistical data obtained from these data can be analysed qualitatively and quantitatively (Sontakki, 2010).
Secondary data will be analysed to determine its appropriateness and credibility for the research. Analysis can start with making comparisons of information from different sources. It is important to analyse the secondary data because it can help the researchers to determine how much useful it is for the research. For instance, a comparison of the secondary sources from Nigeria and secondary sources from United Kingdom can test the credibility of the secondary. Furthermore, analysis of the secondary data will assist the researchers to know how much of primary data is needed. Analysis of the secondary data will be followed by planning for primary data collection. The plans for primary data collection consider three methods of primary data collection. These methods include observations, experimentation, and questionnaires. Questionnaires will be the main method of primary data collection due to their simplicity and convenience. They require little time to administer and reduce or eliminate travelling costs (Sontakki, 2010).
Based on secondary sources, the decline in number of applicants for admissions into universities such as the Central University is due to some factors. These factors can be used to formulate a questionnaire that can be used to collect primary data. Firstly, the quality studies offered by the institutions determine the number of applicants. If the quality of the studies is poor, then the reputation of the institution is likely to diminish with time. Some international students may drop out of the university and tarnish the name of the institutions in their countries. Others may complete their studies and advise potential students from their home countries to seek postgraduate studies elsewhere. Secondly, financial reasons may hinder potential students from applying for admissions into foreign institutions. If school fees are not affordable to potential international students, they will not apply for admissions into the institutions. Additionally, the cost of living in the foreign country may be too expensive despite the low cost of paying school fees (Andrade, 2006).
Thirdly, discrimination and unfair treatment can discourage potential international students from applying for admissions into the universities. Racial and cultural discrimination are critical factors in any institution with international students. Such discriminations can create a bad image of the university thus reducing the number of applicants for admissions into the institution. All forms of unfair treatment to the international students could also reduce the number of international students. Other factors including weather, climatic, healthy, and family reasons cannot be significantly controlled by the institutions, but can have impact on the number of students interested in the institution (Puan et al, 2013).
A can be formulated from the factors obtained from secondary data explained above. The following questionnaire shows sample questions that can be used to collect qualitative and quantitative data from potential international students from Nigeria.
Questionnaire Potential students in Nigeria
Andrade, M. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), pp.131-154.
Bohman, E. (2014). Attracting the World: Institutional Initiatives’ Effects on International Students’ Decision to Enroll. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(8), pp.710-720.
Bradley, N. (2010). Marketing research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Greenall, A. (2012). Attracting international students by means of the web: transadaptation, domestication and cultural suppression. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2012(216).
Puan, O., Yasin, M., Idris, A. and Amran, M. (2013). Attracting International Postgraduate Students:.International Journal of Asian Business and Information Management, 4(3), pp.61-67.
Rich A., Nitin R.M. (2013). Market Research. India: Prentice-Hall of India Pvt Ltd.
Smith, E. (2008). Using secondary data in educational and social research. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill/Open University Press.
Sontakki, C. (2010). Marketing research. Mumbai: Himalaya Pub. House.