Are Post-Pandemic Shifts Creating Risks or Opportunities for International Student Recruitment in the USA? 

Are Post-Pandemic Shifts Creating Risks or Opportunities for International Student Recruitment in the USA? 
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Geo-political dynamics, burgeoning economies and lasting effects from the pandemic are testing how universities engage with international students. There are now more than eight billion people in the world, a third of whom are 20 or younger, and demand for post-graduate education is increasing. The options for increasingly selective students are growing, too. Heavy investment in China is yielding reputational results. Universities in India’s major cities sit in the QS World University Rankings top 250. American institutions waiting for pre-pandemic paradigms to return risk finding themselves in the cold. They must ask if their internationalization strategies remain fit for purpose.

So how can international student recruitment be effective today, and long-term?

With near 30 years international student expertise at Study Group, we support 50 university partners including DePaul University, James Madison University and Long Island University, and recommend the following key considerations.

Understand the opportunity

The number of Indian international students has overtaken Chinese students in the USA and UK. While lifted travel restrictions have seen renewed appetite from China, we’re currently connecting universities with students from 120 countries – a healthy indicator for growing international student cohorts through diversification. There is application demand across South Asia and the Middle East, and we are engaged on trends in Africa.

Headlines are important, but detail should inform your decisions. Use market insights to identify where students who are the right fit for your courses and experiences are located; this includes coming to grips with admissions requirements and variations. If working with a partner, ask them to provide sample credential evaluations, and establish standardized operating procedures to help navigate the complexities.

At our partner Florida Atlantic University, where we recruited 30% of the 2022/23 international student cohort directly into undergraduate and postgraduate study, our data driven insights and global network enable us to connect with students of best fit, supporting those students on the path to success.

Understand how you stack up

Students face multitudinous study abroad options. Evaluate your student offer and brand against other universities aiming to build student connections in those countries. This should inform your recruitment strategy, product recommendations, and your institution’s projected engagement with students in those countries, as well as future opportunities.

Clearly articulate your relevance and points of difference, highlight the quality of your academic programs, access to internships and job opportunities, your location benefits, reputation, and value.

Working with a partner established in the industry will give you access to a wide network of trusted education agents and expert marketeers. Ask prospective partners to detail their ways of working with agents, establish their reputation in key countries and seek examples of effective, tailored communications and marketing. By working closely with our partner the University of Hartford, our focus on recruiting students of best fit has delivered a near threefold increase in confirmations this past year.

Develop your admissions capacity and capability for seamless enrollments
Having engaged the international students that will thrive at your university, you are on a journey with them. Admission is a critical moment in their experience, but handling application peaks, fluctuating student study preferences, and the frequency of changes across international recruitment can put strain on otherwise capable in-house teams.

International students are making a step change in their life. It’s exciting, but the unknowns can cause anxiety. Supporting your admissions team to deliver fast decisions and responses on applications will provide your prospective students with clarity and assurance, discouraging them to consider alternative options.

Systematic completion checks, pre-assessment of applications and robust academic credentials evaluations can reduce backlogs, drive efficiencies and speed up the process for your future students. The experience can be further enhanced by offering alternative, appropriate routes for students if they don’t qualify for their first-choice program.

With effective process and knowledge upskill, your admissions function will soon become a valuable point of connection for students with your university.

Of course, this requires capacity. As Provost Katherine Black at University of Hartford says, “Universities rightly want and need to spend resources and energies on delivering quality education, learning experiences, and support for their students. The rapidity of change in the international student recruitment landscape and increasing emphasis that universities are placing on their internationalization strategies makes strategic partnership an attractive option.”

It’s through partnership that Florida Atlantic University enhanced admissions capabilities. With seamless integration of our technologies and operations, we enabled the university to grow their international student community on campus by 23% in fall 2022 and 42% in spring 2023 compared to the previous years.

International recruitment is dynamic and fast-paced but with careful planning and focus you will connect will talented international students. They will contribute to the richness and diversity of your institution and you will nurture graduates with the skills and perspectives required of tomorrow’s leaders.

This blog is brought to you by the generous support of Study Group

About the author: Craig Johnson is Regional Business Development Manager for North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international education and a trusted strategic partner to 50 universities around the world. Committed to a better world through education, Craig is passionate about high quality international education solutions that drive success for higher education institutions and their students – from outstanding teaching to innovative approaches to international recruitment and student support.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.

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