Since the 1970s our society has steadily become more and more globalized. We buy products from all over the world, do business with customers and colleagues based in cities around the globe, and increasingly we also choose to study internationally or, if our own school days are behind us, encourage our children to do so.

Globalization has had a wide-reaching and meaningful impact on the higher education sector as a whole. As education becomes more global in nature, institutions are seeing the need to develop localized experiences tailored to students, parents, and prospective faculty around the world.

The rise of international study makes localization an imperative

As recently as a few decades ago it was relatively unheard of for university students to elect to go abroad to study. Travel was more difficult and more expensive, and most students didn’t consider moving out of state, let alone overseas, for school. It was far more typical for students to stay closer to home to pursue their education.

However, international study has grown dramatically in the past twenty years. Travel is far more accessible than it used to be, and the rise of remote learning has even made it possible for students in certain programs to earn a degree from an international school from the comfort of their own home. Young people are also more likely to pursue tertiary education now than they were in the recent past, and this factor drives both domestic and international enrolment figures.

According to UNESCO, the number of international students increased from 2 million in 2000 to 5.3 million in 2017. The U.S. is the world’s most popular international study destination, followed by the United Kingdom.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic will almost certainly put a temporary damper on international study, the trend of students electing to continue their education overseas is likely to rebound once a vaccine is readily available.

Appealing to international students, then, is key to maintaining healthy enrollment levels. By marketing your institution to students abroad you also cast a wider net in terms of attracting the best and brightest of a generation, no matter which area of the world they call home.

Where to begin with higher ed localization

Localization is about a lot more than simple translation, though properly translated content is important.

Beyond translating your website and marketing materials into the languages spoken in the countries you’ve targeted for recruitment, truly localized experiences are built on in-depth research that informs a strategic plan.

Prospective international students don’t only speak a different language than domestic ones, they may also have different priorities and expectations of the higher ed experience. Understanding and reflecting cultural nuance is essential if you want your marketing materials to be relevant to international audiences.

And while reputation, authority, and prestige are likely factors that draw international students to your institution, you can’t rely on branding alone to tell a full story. Consider what specific content you can develop that will speak to the unique needs and concerns of students (and parents) in target international markets.

Institutions with international campuses should also consider creating a purpose-built site for each campus. Localize these further to speak both to the domestic student looking to study abroad at the international campus, and the international student based in the region.

Our Solution: Global Experience Assessment

Because they need to appeal directly to a diverse group of user personas, higher education websites and marketing materials are often complex in nature. Factoring localization into this mix adds another layer of complexity.

Through our experience we’ve learned that effective localization relies both on technological solutions and on the human touch required to identify, understand, and incorporate cultural nuance into strategy.

Global Experience Assessment is our solution to the challenges localization presents, allowing us to generate in-depth global research in a format you can scale at a pace to match your institution’s expansion into international markets.

Learn more about our Global Experience Assessment and how we’re helping our clients in higher education meet the demands of a globalized student body.


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