Irish universities and colleges are falling behind their global peers when it comes to attracting students through digital marketing channels.
Recent research has shown that higher education institutions here must be more flexible in adapting their online strategies to engage existing and potential students.
TERMINALFOUR’s 2018 Global Higher Education Digital Marketing & Web Survey analysed digital marketing, web and social media trends in 383 institutions across the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and 17 other countries.
CEO and founder of TERMINALFOUR Piero Tintori said, while web and social media channels are now the main way potential students research a particular university or college, the investment in digital and web varies considerably from institution to institution.
“Students, particularly international students, are often making their final application decisions solely on information available online,” he said.
“Increasingly web and digital experiences are playing a more significant part in the selection of a higher education institution.
“There is strong evidence to suggest that a growing number of students are not physically visiting universities before enrolling. Their decisions are increasingly based on their web and digital experience.”
Mr Tintori said that the findings show that universities and colleges that invest seriously in web and digital marketing have stronger performance recruiting students.
However, less than one quarter (22pc) of institutions globally have increased their investment in digital marketing in the last two years, and 13pc said that they do not have a formal digital strategy.
“Irish universities and colleges are investing very little in digital marketing compared to their peers in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” said Mr Tintori.
“Given the opportunities for international student recruitment at the moment, this is an area that Irish higher education institutions must invest in.”
According to the survey, Facebook’s power in terms of student engagement has weakened, with less than half (45pc) respondents reporting it to be their main pulling platform. This compares with 62pc last year.
Instagram, meanwhile has emerged as the fastest growing platform for student recruitment, jumping from 20pc to 36pc in the last 12 months.
As a result, almost one third (32pc) web, marketing and recruitment higher education professionals intend to focus on that form of social media over the next year.
Other channels that are looked at for recruitment and engagement, according to the research, are YouTube (8.2pc), Twitter (7.1pc), LinkedIn (4.5pc) and Snapchat (3.7pc).