University of London International Programmes

An innovative research approach to help a HE provider consolidate recruitment of overseas students in existing markets and explore untapped markets.

The overarching questions we sought to answer were:

  • How important was the university itself in the student decision making process and how was it perceived against its competitors?
  • What ultimately attracted them to a study with this university?
  • What ‘brand’ values did the university convey to students and how did it perform against the values that the university itself wanted to deliver on?

How does IFF illuminate the facts with research?

As we were engaging with a wide range of participants, from geographically diverse areas, we needed to harness innovative techniques to connect with our audience. This was research on a truly global scale and over the course of a few weeks, we conducted research with stakeholders in 27 countries. This involved using online techniques:

  • Online surveys and in-depth interviews over Skype with teaching institutions
  • And particularly interesting and innovative on this project, online discussion boards with students in five different countries (India, Pakistan, Singapore, UK and US)

So, what did these online discussion boards look like and how did they work?

The online discussion boards allowed students to interact with each other in a dynamic context and challenge each other’s perceptions.

Each discussion lasted 3 days and we released topics or question banks over the course of the 3 days, often releasing several topics through the course of each day. Typically, 15 participants contributed to each discussion board and a member of our project team moderated.

This was a research methodology very much designed for the social media age. The interface mimicked that of well-known social media platforms, which meant that participants had the natural intuition when it came to engaging with the interface and spontaneously responded to other participants’ contributions.

It also meant that we could collect insight in a truly multimedia way through:

  • Participants using emoticons, likes and dislikes
  • Sharing images and video content including stimulus that we wanted to share with participants which could be clicked on to view in full size

And what we ended with was high levels of engagement, lots of interactivity and a wealth of content from students from across the globe in a relatively short space of time.

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