Digital device trends among international students

Earlier today Study International and the University of Salford Business School released their joint White Paper on Digital device trends among international students.

The launch, which took place at the Radisson Hotel on Bloomsbury Street in London, brought together some of the top UK university decision makers and featured a presentation of the White Paper’s findings given by Study International’s Business Development & Product Director, Graham Wood, who described the study as a “an insight into emerging forms of engagement and relationship building between international students and higher education institutions”.

The White Paper has been based on the research expertise of the Centre for Digital Business at Salford Business School and extensive data collected by Study International’s Student Relationship Management System over the last 2 ½ years, and identifies a sharp rise in international student enquiries made via mobile devices for study at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

This increase measures the proportionate impact on all forms of online devices. From a base of 25,496 total enquiries in 2013 to one of 65,217 in 2014 the data shows a sudden increase in mobile usage from 11.9% in 2013 to 27% in 2014. This trend in mobile device usage, at the expense of desktop / laptop traffic, has significant implications for institutions and their approaches to creating mobile-friendly websites.

The study audited 121 university websites & found that up to 40% did not feature mobile-friendly international student pages. Of those that did, download speeds & functionality varied in terms of performance. These factors have a clear impact on access to information by international students in markets where mobile broadband speeds are lower than in developed countries.The research team conducted a deep dive census into the device usage habits of 804 international students from Colombia, Jordan, Malaysia and Nigeria, with results showing significant variations between regions, which were potentially the result of disparity in infrastructure for each territory.

Given that smartphone usage is set to rise to 334 million Africans by 2017 & combined with current comparisons on regional average internet speeds, e.g. UK’s 6.1 Mb/s (Ofcom 2014) vs. Nigeria’s 2.1 Mb/s (Opensignal 2014), the study questions whether enough being done by Western universities to ensure their digital marcoms can take advantage of ever increasing student enquiries from Africa, and indeed all other international markets.

The presentation was concluded by noting the findings were likely to be a “wake up call for any university marcoms team that does not have a digital strategy with a strong focus on digital device trends” and urged universities to take advantage of these changes in international markets by ensuring that prospective international students could receive responsive website experiences across all platforms.

The ‘Digital device trends among international students’ White Paper can be accessed here.

Further Study International White Paper research studies are set to be released later in the year.

More information on the Centre for Digital Business at the Salford Business School can be found on their website.