This blog post was updated on 20 December 2022.
The flow of Chinese international students has slowed over the last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, China is still the world’s largest source of international students and many of its young people continue to go overseas to study their degrees abroad. According to recent data, just over 1 million Chinese students were studying abroad in 2021.
In 2022, China’s border is gradually reopening and a growing number of Chinese citizens are again applying for student visas, where they have received an offer from a university in another country. According to an Oliver Wyman study, the number of Chinese students pursuing degrees abroad will peak in the next five years.
So, what can universities do to attract these bright young minds and get them to choose their university over others?
I have put together a guide on how universities can go about targeting Chinese prospective students, and this blog post pulls out some of the key points. Without further ado, let’s delve into my five top tips!
1. Localise your website
Make sure that your most important landing pages have been translated and localised into Simplified Chinese. This is especially important for the webpages that the parents are most likely to read, as they are the key decision-makers. Take a look at this checklist of things you need to translate into Simplified Chinese: your programmes, student life, departments, institutes, alumni, staff and research. It is advisable to host these localised webpages on a local server in China to ensure fast page loading times.
2. Optimise for search
Make sure you are following SEO best practices. Be aware that you will want to optimise your website not for Google, but Baidu. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. To rank well on Baidu, you need to ensure that all your headlines, descriptions and meta tags use the most relevant and popular Simplified Chinese keywords. Use a native speaker to conduct this keyword research and make sure that you regularly monitor keywords and search terms so that you notice any changes straight away.
3. Use social media
Social media is very important in China. However, many Western social platforms are banned in China, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, WhatsApp, YouTube and others. So, do not waste your time and resources on these platforms. Instead, focus on popular Chinese social networks, such as WeChat, Weibo, Zhihu, Little Red Book, Bilibili and Douyin. Many universities are not currently on these platforms; a wasted opportunity for them and a chance for your university to get ahead of the curve. Make sure your posts are in Simplified Chinese, post regularly and try to tap into trending topics, if they are relevant.
4. Develop a content marketing strategy
Both Chinese prospective students and their parents want more in-depth written content available to them in Simplified Chinese. Here are some content ideas to get your started: your specific requirements for Chinese students, the benefits of studying at your university (e.g. your prestige/reputation/rankings, better employment prospects, etc.), how international students are treated, testimonials from current Chinese students, etc.
5. Focus on engagement
Chinese people value and appreciate engagement. One way universities can do this is by organising events such as pre-departure or alumni meetings. Another way to engage with Chinese users is by taking part in relevant discussions online, such as on messaging apps or question-and-answer forums such as Zhihu.
Want to learn more?
I hope this blog post has been a useful introduction to how to attract Chinese students to your university. For more in-depth information and advice, read my full-length guide here! From reading this guide, you will learn:
- how Chinese students choose which educational institution to study at
- actionable advice on how to attract Chinese students
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