Attracting Chinese Students to Overseas Schools

According to UNESCO, China has more students studying abroad than the other top 7 countries combined. In recent years, the number of Chinese students looking to study abroad has grown rapidly.

If you are looking to promote a foreign school in China, it’s important to know how to connect with your target audience. Here, we examine the particular qualities Chinese people value in education, and the best digital marketing practices for generating student leads.

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius

 

 

Education Market in China

Understanding the role education plays in Chinese society is crucial for creating the appropriate message for your school.

Chinese students are under immense pressure from parents and family members to perform well and attain the highest grades. In line with Confucius style teaching, education is seen as the gateway to a more promising future. Investing in the next generation is therefore an integral part of Chinese society. This ethos holds true for both the wealthy and poorer families, as a student’s grades are a reflection not just on the individual, but on the entire family.

Further, foreign schools over the years have gained the trust from these families by offering their children an opportunity to study abroad, which will give them an advantage over the competition.

 

Why do Chinese Students want to study abroad?

The best universities in China are the public ones as they are heavily backed by the Chinese government. Competition remains fierce for these positions, and only those who achieve high grades on the national emission test (the “GaoKao”) are able to attend.

To avoid facing the intense all-or-nothing “GaoKao” test, and the overbearing competition, some students opt to move away from China and seek education overseas. In the eyes of local employers, students who have had an education abroad are seen as someone with in-depth world knowledge, and strong English language skills.

 

Major reasons for Chinese students to study overseas in 2015 and 2021

(Source: Statista)

 

As you can see from the graph above, Chinese students rank broadening their horizons as the top reason for studying abroad. Other reasons, such as improving future job prospects and foreign language skills also rank quite highly on the list.

 

Why do Chinese parents want their child to study abroad?

Respecting and listening to your elders is an integral part of day-to-day life in China. So naturally, parents are going to have a lot of influence on the final decision over where their child will be studying.

One reason why Chinese parents want their children to study abroad is so that they can improve their English skills. Focus on learning English starts from an early age in China, with parents hoping that an early start will spark a natural interest for the subject. Schools that can provide an immersive English learning experience will rank highly on the parent-recommended list of schools that their children can attend. This in part explains why students are choosing English speaking countries such as the UK and USA as their preferred destination for studying.

 

Chinese students’ preferred destinations for studying overseas in 2015 and 2021

(Source: Statista)

 

School Reputation is Key

Another reason why the US and the UK are top destinations for students, is because their universities rank highly in China. Schools such as Harvard University, Stanford University, MIT, University of Oxford and University College London are all positioned towards the top end of the rankings.

 

(Source: https://www.shanghairanking.com/rankings/arwu/2021)

 

A school’s reputation will be the break-or-make factor for students who are deciding on where to study. To ensure that your school develops a positive reputation over in China, it will need to be accessible on Baidu (China’s version of Google) as this is where locals will be searching for information. If your school hasn’t established itself in China yet, building an online presence on Baidu is even more important.

 

How to promote foreign schools in China

For your school to develop a positive reputation in China, you will need to improve your online visibility. To generate high-quality student leads, you should be following these best practices.

 

Localize your School’s Website

Chinese students (and parents) want to know everything about the school that they might be attending. This means you will need to build a China-friendly website so that information about your school is accessible to them.

Transitioning or building your site means more than just simply translating it into Chinese. Your content will need to be equipped to cater for Chinese online habits. You can achieve this by considering website layout preferences, image preferences and design choices.

Localizing your site will also improve its SEO-ranking as search engines in China will favor a .CN domain name over foreign sites.

 

 

Increase the School’s Visibility on Baidu

Baidu is the number one search engine site in the country with 75% of the market share. It goes without saying then, that ranking high on Baidu’s SERP is crucial for developing your school’s brand image and to get students clicking on your site.

Here are some ways you can optimize your Baidu ranking:

  • Keyword Research – You should optimize your site with keywords. When it comes to researching which keywords to use, Baidu’s keyword planner is a helpful tool. Here you can find average daily search volume, daily mobile search volume, competition level for keywords and estimated top page bid cost.
  • Hosting your website inside of China – As mentioned above, search engines prefer.CN domain name sites. To acquire this, you will need to file for an ICP license. Click here to find out more about ICP licenses and which one might be right for you.
  • Optimize for Mobile – China is a mobile-first country with 95.1% of Chinese netizens using their mobile to access the internet. You should ensure that your school’s site accommodates for mobile users. As a result, your site will generate more leads due to this huge wave of traffic.

You can also complete this approach with PPC (Pay Per Click) ads which are displayed at the top of the news feed. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of the best tools to recruit Chinese students. However, the most serious student prospects will click on a school’s ad only if the organic results also show up on the front page.

 

Grow the School’s Reputation

Official online education press releases can be a great way to reach the older generations. These publications are held in high regard by Chinese people as they are heavily monitored by the government. The regulations ensure that readers are receiving reliable and verified information that they can trust.

 

Example of a PR article for our client SUP DE LUXE in Vogue China

 

Your school will also need to develop its non-official reputation by being involved in educational forums. Chinese people expect to receive authentic opinions from these forums and are more likely to trust the news they consume here.

 

Raise your Social Media awareness and gather a community around your School

You will need to develop your school’s social media presence if you want to reach your target audience and influence their choice of school.

An extremely vibrant Chinese social media ecosystem has grown in the absence of western social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. It is worth noting that WeChat is the most essential platform to be visible on, as it accounts for over 1.2 billion users.

 

WeChat Mini-Programs

In 2017, WeChat “mini-programs” were released, offering users a way to create what is essentially an internal app within WeChat.

Here, your school will be able to create an access point for parents and students to access information, offer a creative space for communities to connect, reveal open-days, run contests and so much more. These features will allow you to nurture a deep connection between your school and your students and parents.

 

WeChat Official Accounts

It’s easy to promote your school on WeChat as you can simply create an “Official Account” (OA). Followers of your OA can receive brochures of your school with an embedded h5 page link, communicate directly with your team, and be added into group messages to have their questions answered.

You can optimize your OA with the use of a WeChat CRM. After followers have submitted basic information such as gender, age, interests, major etc. they will be added to the WeChat CRM database.

Here, the WeChat CRM will filter and tag users based on their preferences so that you can send targeted information to them. For example, you can send specific brochures to followers based on whether they are a student or a parent. Alternatively, you could send targeted brochures depending on what their major is.

 

Since 2008, Sekkei Studio have been helping overseas Schools and Universities to attract Chinese students. From Marketing consultancy to Digital Marketing planning and execution. As an integrated marketing agency, Sekkei Studio can satisfy all the school’s marketing needs under one roof, including Strategy, Branding, Creative, Design, Web development, Online Reputation Management and much more. Let us know if you are willing to properly attract Chinese student to your oversea school or if you are looking at taking things to the next level.

 

Hamza Ouarit

Marketing Conslutant and General Manager of Sekkei Studio, a 13 years old digital marketing agency in Shanghai, Paris and Hong Kong. Hamza has been helping brands, corporations, and governments with their China Digital Maketing strategies and contributes actively to seminars and conferences.

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