Graduate Management News

Family Matters When Recruiting in Middle East – Africa

If you want aspiring business students from the Middle East and Africa to enroll in your program, be sure to share your marketing messages with the people they trust most to help them make the right decisions—their family members.

You’ll have the greatest success if you do the talking in person and your brand is recognized—and valued—in these regions. But you can establish personal contact and create a viral buzz about your brand, even if budget constraints restrict or prevent you from traveling there to recruit. Here’s how, according to panelists at a GMAC Annual Industry Conference session for admissions and marketing professionals on recruiting in the Middle East and Africa:

  • Learn what the market has to offer
  • Understand students’ preferences and decision-making processes
  • Collaborate with educational assistance programs on the ground

Opportunities abound

Nearly 10,000 students in the Middle East and Africa sat for the GMAT test in 2008. This talent makes up five percent of the current student pipeline and “is looking to the US and Europe for their graduate management education,” according to session moderator Michelle Sparkman-Renz, associate director, research, at GMAC.

“The GMAT data point to an increasing student pipeline and potential for schools today—and these regions account for a growing share of the world’s international students by 2025,” she added.

If, as American film auteur Woody Allen once claimed, 80 percent of success is showing up, schools at the forefront of recruiting efforts here definitely boost their brand. “We still don’t see a lot of investment from business schools in this market,” said Leila Murat, assistant director of admissions, MBA programme, INSEAD. “So if you go there, you stand out.”

Can’t travel there?

Still, a variety of options for making personal contacts—and your mark—in the region are available to you even if you can’t make the trip, according to Jacqueline Zavitz, senior associate director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Foremost, it’s likely that many of your Middle Eastern and African prospects actually reside outside these regions. Perhaps they live and work or attend school within traveling distance of London, Paris, New York City, or other major population centers where you’re already planning to conduct an outreach event. Consider extending your stay and adding a reception, open-house, or other get-together for these students.

To fully engage prospects and their families, Zavitz and Murat suggest that you might also:

  • Place ads about your programs in the local press to get your brand out there.
  • Market your programs through companies that have a presence in these regions.
  • Network through Fulbright, Kaplan, and other institutional programs (in addition to government initiatives promoting education such as EducationUSA[], CampusFrance, and Australian Education International).
  • Communicate opportunities you can offer to prospects’ family members, such as work opportunities on campus or classes that their spouses can take.

Free or low-cost assistance

Regional education advising coordinators (REACs) working alongside student advisors, such as EducationUSA in the US Department of State, can provide a wealth of direct assistance to US schools, and serve as an information resource for non-US schools.

“We will help you set up hotel reservations, meetings with students, make arrangements for drivers,” explained Kristen Cammarata, regional educational advising coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division of EducationUSA. They’ll circulate information about your programs in their weekly newsletter. They might even be able to help travel-challenged schools conduct face-to-face outreach. “Many of our in-country centers do have video conferencing equipment and capabilities, and it’s free to both parties if run through our IP address,” Cammarata added.

Alumni are key

Finally, schools with first-hand recruiting experience in both regions agree that alumni may be your most powerful outreach tool in countries where the advice and consent of family, friends, and other trusted advisers drives decision making.

“Work through your alumni. They will be your foot soldiers,” advised Zavitz, who added that Wharton will be recruiting in South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana this season and has conducted outreach in Tanzania, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon in the past.

INSEAD, which has research centers in Israel and Abu Dhabi that create content that is fed into curricula on its campuses, takes an organic approach to recruiting: Through its Africa Initiative, the school hosts an annual Africa week on campus and routinely organizes study treks in countries across the continent.

“Alumni are your basic tool,” Murat concurred. “If you can have alumni doing an in-country event … this speaks very well for your school.”

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