Chinese students: priority number one

Attracting young people from the People’s Republic is vital for UK universities and a secure future, says Keith Burnett, see original post click here

A recent article in Times Higher Education highlighted the high proportion of Asian students studying for postgraduate qualifications in our universities, and the implications of this (“Asian postgraduates outnumber Britons in four subjects”, 19 March).

Those who think about the future of UK higher education often worry about China in particular. In the face of large numbers of students from the People’s Republic, notably in such subjects as engineering and maths, they have been heard to say that UK universities are “over-reliant on the Chinese market”.

My first response is that it is not a market. My second is that Chinese students cannot be viewed as somehow interchangeable with the large numbers of talented young people in other parts of the world who are willing to invest in a British university education. No matter how much economists talk about the potential of the rapidly developing BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), China is unique.

It is not simply that China is the world’s second-largest economy and growing fast, that it is home to almost a quarter of the world’s population, and that all agree that the future geopolitical and environmental future of our planet will be deeply influenced by the choices it makes in the next few years.

It is not that we shouldn’t value the diversity of our institutions, with cultural and academic richness drawn from well over 100 countries. But China offers the UK a once-in-a-generation opportunity. By an accident of history and the deep desire of Chinese parents to make sometimes tremendous sacrifices for their children to have access to the best education and prospects that the world can offer, the UK has built a profound connection with arguably the largest and most influential nation on our planet.

We have overcome the enmities of our far-from-perfect colonial history, in large part owing to the generosity of the Chinese spirit and their respect for our intellectual, technological and business heritage.

Will we convert this relationship into a long-term partnership for the future of nations and people in the world – and how will this be possible? One way is through our response to a common problem shared by our two countries: the need to produce an innovative, inclusive and sustainable future for our children.

China is busy developing technologies to free itself from the thrall of the carbon age. It is to the UK, as well as to other countries, that China looks to train its gifted young scientists and engineers and to build joint technologies for a green future.

While the UK shares many of China’s technological ambitions, we know that our own scientific and industrial heritage is vulnerable. We have lost great swathes of our capability in infrastructure and national investment in research and development. We need engineering as a discipline, but such teaching is resource intensive and its continued success is due in no small part to the past and present presence of Chinese students and gifted academics.

Investment in the UK’s next generation of low-carbon power, for example, is already being developed hand in hand with China, including by my own university.

One might dismiss such views as inevitable, coming from a vice-chancellor in a city with a historic focus on engineering and manufacturing. But pause for thought: we can build a green future only if we build the broadest and most inclusive skill base. Our challenges are global and our solutions must be the same.

Rather than seeing our Chinese students primarily as a proportion of market share, a cheque, what we need is the language of public good and a global harmonious society, one that sees our common challenges and uses our mutual skills to address them.

Even this is not enough. Like people from every nation, our Chinese students and partners want to be seen and understood in their talents and struggles. The UK still harbours too many prejudices about China and is ignorant of the aspirations of its young people. We must care for our Chinese students in the way we care for all our students. They are our colleagues, co-creators of knowledge and our friends.

In Sheffield, we realise that this aim is in no way separate from the aspirations of our home students, communities and businesses. The chair of our chamber of commerce is committed to helping local companies learn how to work and trade with China, and the chamber has supported a scheme to place Chinese students with the companies he represents. Our lord mayor has backed our campaigning work in support of international students, while our Confucius Institute participates in city-centre vibrancy, our Global Manufacturing Festival and an emerging business district led by one of our own Chinese graduates.

Our students go further. They rightly urge us to see education itself beyond borders, with learning bringing people and their ideas together in ways that transform how they understand problems and see themselves.

This is not blind idealism. It is a vision that remembers what universities are for, one that is vital not only for the future of UK higher education but also for the relationships that will secure the future of our world.

What is HelloUni –a SaaS model product

This is a long –awaited post. As the founder and initial concept creator of HelloUni, I feel obliged to clarify and explain to the wider audience about what is HelloUni and what we are striving to achieve here at ICAN Future Star Ltd.

Here comes the story behind the creation of HelloUni:

Firstly, for people who do not know me personally, I was an international student. I am originally from China but I went to a sixth form college in Cambridge. I then went through the process of UCAS like a typical domestic student and got offered a place in the University of Glasgow where I studied for a Bachelor degree, followed by a Research Master. After that I went on to complete a PhD in Behavioural Accounting in the Adam Smith Business School.

During my study at University of Glasgow, I was elected as the President and chairman for the Chinese Students & Scholars Association in Glasgow (part of the Chinese Scholars & Students Association CSSA UK which is under the direct supervision of Embassy of Republic of China). I also served as the International Student Officer at the Student Representative Council in the university to oversee all matters concerning the wellbeing and rights of international students at the university.

In the last year of my PhD, I won the John Mather Budding Entrepreneur competition, which gave me the starting capital and confidence to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. I was given business advisory support from the Adam Smith Business School as well as Financial Services firms such as PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

Because of my personal experience and research-informed insights into the decision-making process behind of international applicants, particularly those from outside the EU, I believe that universities need an innovative platform that gives them an edge over their competitors by giving total control of the messages communicated to prospective applicants. An alternative solution that doesn’t excessively rely on local agents or websites such as Studentroom.

Universities find recruiting the right calibre of international students difficult and costly. The most common practice is to use local agents, who don’t necessarily have an in depth knowledge of the university, who may represent multiple universities and who are expensive. External websites such as Studentroom require constant external administration to ensure their content is accurate and is not a dedicate recruitment and or marketing platform for individual university.

At ICAN Future Star Ltd, we believe that a technology-enabled product combined with the unique market intelligence of the segmentation of international students recruitment would improve our university client’s chance to connect with the prospective applicants at both rational and emotional level.

Our product is HelloUni, a cross-platform mobile solution which can be customised and integrated into universities’ current online marketing suit. HelloUni helps universities mitigate the problems mentioned earlier by providing them with a mobile platform which allows them to approach prospective students directly, engaging them with customised content about the university.

Because we care about empowering international applicants and ensuring university could attract and retain the right calibre of applicants, we offer the product in a SaaS model, which means we have stake in the game and we will work with the university client to continuously upgrade the product and leverage our region-based market insight to create innovative marketing solutions to help clients to better target individual market segmentations of the applicants.

The key benefits of HelloUni are:

1)   A more personalisable and intuitive application experience

2)    An automatically translated interface matching the location of the App Store for users in different regions

3)    Mobilisation and automatisation of the existing ambassador network

4)    Usability for agents or university country representatives, to engage applicants through their application journey via customised push notifications

5)    Engaging the prospective applicants throughout the application journey, thus, supporting an increased emotional connection between prospective applicants and the university’s ambassadors

6)   Providing user data and behaviour analytics, which can be fed to the university’s existing leads/ customer relationships management system for better targeting and marketing to applicants by segmentation

7)    Runs on both android and iOS phones

The company’s market research and behavioural insights indicate that this can greatly increase the confidence of the prospective students’ and their families’ with the university and hence their likelihood of enrolment to that university.

Initial market validation has proved that there is a strong demand for HelloUni. The company is a winner of the UK Trade and Investment Sirius program, and currently working with University of Glasgow with the objective to launch HelloUni Glasgow in August and test the product with the applicants of the university.