US education businesses should invest in Digital to get more Chinese clients

The most promising Education Tourism Market …

With 523,700 Chinese students who went overseas last year in 2015, China is the biggest outbound education tourism market. This is a 14% increase in comparison to 2014 and 11% from 2013 to 2014. According to the Ministry of Education of China, about 9 out of 10 Chinese overseas students financed their trip by themselves (usually parents) without any scholarship. The rest of the Chinese students are helped by their company or by a special government fund. One interesting trend is that most of these students going abroad return home. China’s ministry of education estimated that 400,000 Chinese students went back to China after studying abroad. Another trend is that they are younger and younger going towards high school and even middle school. The main destinations for Chinese students are mostly English-speaking countries : the US, Australia, and Canada.


Chinese education in the US …


China is the main market for US universities.In 2000, 10% of overseas students in the US were Chinese now 3 out of 10 foreign students is Chinese (304,040 Chinese students in the US). As of now, there is a total of 974,926 foreign students enrolled in the US as reported by the IIE. According to the Economist, the number of enrollment to US undergraduate programme was multiplied by 11 times between 2006/2007 and 2015.


In 2005, there was about five times more Chinese graduate than undergraduate Chinese student. It has now totally shifted. Since 2014, there are now more Chinese students enrolled in Undergraduate programs than Graduate programs. According to International Education data, about 124,000 are undergraduates while 115,000 are graduate Chinese students.

Another interesting fact shared by the IIE is that the US was not bound to be the favorite destination for Chinese students. Actually, there were any Chinese overseas students in the US from 1950’s to 1975. China has been the first and main “Chinese brain provider” since 2009/2010.


Chinese students in USA


Source: – data from The institute of International Education Open Doors report 2015


1: SEO : visibility & optimization on Baidu 


The most important thing for any education organisation is to be visible by Chinese parents and students. A very powerful tool to search for information is search engines. Just like any parent or student would look on Google for information about a university Chinese just do the same. Since Google is forbidden in China, another search engine leads the market: Baidu. Baidu is a Chinese search engine which owns more than 80% of the market. Needless to say ranking in the first pages of Baidu will help you tremendously to be visible to Chinese students/parents/agencies.


As you can see on the following screenshot, when we type “留学 ” (Study abroad) for example we only see international studies specialized website. Don’t hesitate to approach these websites to make your organisation better known.

The main websites:

JJL Overseas Education

51 Liu Cheng

EI Education

Therefore, you should make sure that your website is in Chine and SEO optimize. Also, be aware of the fact that Baidu’s SEO requirements differ from those for Google (content for example).


2: Social Media : Wechat & Weibo 

China is one of the biggest online communities with more than 660 million internet users. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 netizens use their mobile phone to access the Internet. The main Chinese social media platforms are WeiBo, WeChaT, QQ and Ren Ren. WeChat is an instant messaging mobile app developed by Tencent (Creator of QQ). It has more than 690 million active users worldwide and China is the main market. WeiBo, with more than 222 million active users and a Twitter-like platform is a micro-blogging platform.

Screenshot_2016-05-16-11-02-04 Screenshot_2016-05-16-11-06-51








If you truly want to get closer to your audience and target market, Wechat and WeiBo are a must. A university can have its own Official WeChat/Weibo page or like MIT, using a KOL (key opinion leader), an MIT professor who has more than 87 000 followers.


3: E-branding : invest in your ereputation


Online branding is the use of a set of online strategy tool: search engine (SEO), social media (WeChat/Weibo), a Chinese website, presence on specialized Education websites, etc. Another important fact to take into account is the importance of Mian Zi in China. Mian Zi which refers to “reputation” or “honour” is one of the basics of Chinese culture. Chinese people want to send their Children to study abroad to show that their child is succeeding, can speak a foreign language etc. An education organisation should share a story to really build a connection with the Chinese target customer. Having a page on Baidu encyclopedia is a good start and will enable the school to share the story and values.



4: The Word of mouth : because Chinese care about what people recommand


As of today, about half of the Chinese population is connected to the Internet. The traditional way was to go offline by being present in conferences, giving lectures abroad, go sourcing in universities … Well, you can still do so but thanks to the wide availability of the Internet in China you can improve a school brand awareness by using digital tools. Words, experiences, advice, feedback and general information will flow and spread very fast across all social media platforms, websites, forums, and blogs. The school should just make sure that everything said is positive and should monitor the “spread” progress (even though it can be difficult). Having a strong brand, building partnerships with local organizations, understanding the needs of the target market (Chinese parents, students) and providing value will help in the word-of-mouth process.

badreputation harvard


A Chinese student in the US was discriminated against by Harvard University student back in 2015. A Chinese cooperative decided to defend her rights. As you can see this video has been seen more than 90,000 times since it was published !!

5: E-reputation 


Thus, the importance of taking care of your reputation online. If an Australian university, for example, wants to attract more Chinese students, it should make sure that the image, how Chinese people perceive the organization is positive. As you already know China is a very connected country. Moreover, people believe strongly in what is shared on the Internet. Having strong online testimonials, positive comments, and providing enough relevant information to Chinese parents/students will help Australian schools and universities to attract Chinese students.

6: Video testimonials


Another way to attract more Chinese students is by using Chinese video platforms. In 2014, there were already more than 450 million video viewers which accounted for more than 5 billion hours of videos watched per month. Also, According to Iresearch, in 2015, the Online Video market in China generated a revenue of 11.53 billion Yuan (31.9% increase compared to the previous year). The main platform in China is Youku, Iqiyi, PPS, Sohu, and Tencent. Australian schools/universities could film their current Chinese students, post a video and then let the “word of mouth” happen by sharing the videos on several social media platforms.


As you can see below it is a great idea to have a video testimonial in Chinese by Chinese students. Actually, this university did a “mistake” by posting their video on Youtube (which forbidden in China) but well the idea is there. The video should be posted on one of the main Chinese video platforms to give Chinese parents/students the chance to see the video .

7: Customer service : the last step of the sales

Last but not least, if an Australia school wants to attract even more Chinese student, it should act like a business and ensure that Chinese customers are satisfied at every touchpoint. The first touchpoint with the Chinese customer is when they are looking for more information about for example the school programme or accommodation. Having someone who can speak Chinese and respond to parents queries, for example, is a great way to make them feel at “home”.

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