Study Highlight: Evolution and Opportunity in China’s Overseas Study Market

Study Highlight: Evolution and Opportunity in China’s Overseas Study Market

WE Red Bridge’s latest report about Mainland China’s overseas study market draws on publicly available surveys, data from student recruitment agents and interviews with local students. It finds that the market has recovered overall, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 10 percent (comparing 2019 with 2022).

Chinese students remain interested in studying abroad, though they are now considering alternative destinations due to COVID-19 concerns. To continue building rapport with Chinese students, brand managers at overseas educational institutions are advised to have a differentiated brand and robust understanding of the challenges students face, and the unique needs they have. In addition to factors including rankings, university prestige and professional opportunities, considerations such as safety and convenience have become more prominent when Chinese students and parents choose a destination country.

Telum caught up with Kit Mention, Group Account Director, Corporate at WE Red Bridge, to take a deeper dive into communicating and branding around the outbound Chinese student market.

With an increase in pandemic-related concerns, what should brands and institutions apart from foreign schools consider when communicating to Chinese students?
The key point that came through repeatedly in our interviews is the need for institutions, foreign or local, to communicate with Chinese students early and often. Students want to trust brands, but when they receive unreliable information, or when brands hold information back or provide it too late, these situations impede trust.

Students understand that brands are facing headwinds, with a slowing global economy and quickly-changing regulations, but they also need clarity as they plan their stay overseas. Providing the information that students need is key to building brand trust, so institutions should be clear and quick when communicating information that may impact students’ plans.

The report shows that more students are deciding to work after university graduation and wait for the pandemic situation to normalise before pursuing a post-secondary degree. Does that bring any opportunities to local Chinese brands to engage with this category?
This trend certainly presents opportunities for brands operating in Mainland China, both Chinese and foreign. Firstly, graduates in this cohort make up a pool of potential employees that can help address Mainland China’s labour market pressure. Secondly, Chinese graduates who intend to pursue post-secondary degrees later stand out as a distinct consumer group, one planning purchases of travel-related products, financial products and consumer products.

Given that they have already decided to study abroad and are just waiting for the best time, they are spending longer than previous study-abroad students in the preparation stage of their overseas study journey, thinking through how best to get to their destination, what to bring, how to transfer money, and more. This presents local brands with distinct opportunities for engagement as they spend longer thinking through these essential purchases.

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