For smart schools, the next big source of international students could be Africa

Western schools face competition from India, China

African students represent a huge and untapped opportunity for Western colleges, say experts, but international schools need to step up their recruitment strategies or risk missing out, the PIE News reports.

Various speakers at London's African Student Recruitment Conference last week pointed out that students in Africa are increasingly hungry for an international college experience. Yet many Western schools have problems reaching African students and fail to break into the sector. In the region, a lack of infrastructure, restrictive government regulations, and students' financial constraints can all impede marketing and recruiting efforts.

Creative recruiting pays off

For schools seeking African students, speakers noted that working outside mainstream recruiting can yield big returns. Online and distance learning, in-country provisions, and school-to-school partnerships have been successful in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria.

Related: Administering online programs in India and China

The digital space allows institutions to work around regulations while still providing quality education, says consultant Guy Doughty. He adds that private schools are hungry for partnerships, though each one must be tailored to specific, regional needs.  

Arthur Appianda of Regent University College of Science and Technology in Ghana stressed the need for equality in such relationships. "True linkages," he says, "are developed on a foundation of joint partnership, transparency in financial arrangements and democratic decision processes."

Related: Structure and costs of international partnerships

Recently, the Kenyan government made it simpler for foreign institutions to set up private schools. Changes included increasing electricity access and security nationwide and dedicating 2% of annual GDP to research.

But creating an overseas campus is still difficult, stressed Edulink COO Raj Gil. "Never mind academic provision," he says, "climate, cuisine, and working out cultural differences among students should be your first priority."

Future competition

Today, the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom are the most common destinations for African students studying abroad—but China and India are steadily increasing in popularity. Both offer competitive scholarship programs, and China has invested heavily in trade with African countries (Custer, PIE News, 10/17).  

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