Written in February 2023 by the Head of International Office at the time, Martin Hookham-Simms.

Recruitment performance

In 2011, The University of Sussex had just under 2,000 overseas fee paying students with this growing to over 4,600 students in 2021-22 (HESA). Sussex was cited in 2017 as the UK university that had grown its enrolments faster than any other over the previous five years with growth of 109% during the period (Times Higher Education).

After our intake of September 2022, Sussex has more overseas postgraduate students than it has ever had in its history.

The re-emergence of India and Nigeria as key recruitment markets for the UK post pandemic, has brought Sussex one of its most diverse international cohorts, with international students likely to contribute over £80 million in tuition fee income in the 2022-23 financial year alone.

International students now account for 29% of our community, with Sussex outperforming the sector average of 22% (Universities UK), connecting the University across the globe to support the delivery of a better university for a better world.

How this was achieved

In the last decade, the International Office has grown its global footprint, opening its first overseas office in Beijing in 2012; Lagos in 2014; Kuala Lumpur in 2015; Shenzhen in 2016; and most recently New Delhi in 2021. This has given us flexibility, on the ground support - which has been especially helpful through the pandemic as international travel became limited - and puts Sussex in a good place for the future as the University develops its sustainable travel policies.

The campus based International Office have evolved into a regional structure, so that teams have well developed insight into the market opportunities that are relevant to the territories they are responsible for. One size doesn’t fit all, with the team tailoring their activities to include recruitment articulations and progressions, promotion to overseas agents, digital marketing campaigns and attendance of events, depending on what is known to work in market.

This innovative approach has allowed the International Office to engage into some exciting partnerships such as the Global Student with the Guardian Online in 2016 and given us recognition across the sector winning awards given by HEIST, EuroAsia, Tencent and StudyPortals.

In the last decade, the team have responded swiftly to economic crashes, war, BREXIT and the pandemic to still outperform the sector.

Our future

International student recruitment should be considered a mature sophisticated market with the UK remaining an attractive destination for students to study in.

As students search for opportunities there is a greater need for institutions to be flexible in their delivery at the same time as ensuring a focus on health and wellbeing support.

Across the globe, international students, and our business partners are becoming more demanding and understandably asking more questions about studying with us;

  • What scholarships and tuition fees do you have to ensure value for money for my studies?
  • What dedicated international student support do you have in place to further my career prospects?
  • What is the reputation of your institution and where are you in global league tables?
  • What results does the University have in the REF and the TEF?
  • How well does your student experience compare to other institutions that I might apply to?
  • What housing provision do you have in place on campus and in the city?
  • How long will you take to process my application?

As markets such as Australia and New Zealand re-open to international students, successful institutions will respond quickly to these questions and the even greater competitive environment in which they find themselves.

Fortunately, the University is positioned well to respond and I wish everyone at Sussex every success in delivering the institution’s future international vision.

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