This month Professor Helen Higson looks at Aston’s international scholarships and shares the outcomes from the Scholarship seminar which was held at the University in June.
Aston’s International Strategy Committee identified that a greater importance needs to be placed on scholarships in order to continue attracting high numbers of international students to Aston.
Scholarships can be used as a marketing tool in themselves to encourage good international students to choose Aston for their studies. They are also extremely useful in targeting key identified markets. In the current economic crisis, scholarships are going to be increasingly important as more than ever before, finance is going to be a huge consideration.
‘In some markets scholarships can be used to attract students as it will be financially difficult for them to come’, Helen Higson says. ‘This will become more important as the recession continues. For example, in countries such as Africa where recruitment has slowed, good scholarships will be crucial to encouraging applications.
‘We are also finding that students are waiting until much later to make their decisions, so whilst our applications are up - particularly applications for postgraduate courses - students are not confirming until much later. We think that scholarships will help to rectify this.’
A scholarship seminar was held on 4th June to look at this problem and how the University can drive scholarships forward. The seminar was attended by representatives from all Schools and departments. It explored what we are currently offering, what scholarships other universities are offering, Aston’s international market and what factors affect the decision making process. As a result of the seminar, a scholarship strategy is currently being worked on and will be implemented later this year.
What is important too for international students is the actual name of the scholarship. ‘If you have a name that really means something to a group of students it has more prestige’, says Helen. ‘EAS recently launched a research scholarship attached to Professor Robert Berry and the School was inundated because of his reputation. So we need to really think about what we are calling our scholarships.’
In preparation for the seminar the Market Research Office carried out a competitor analysis which showed that many of our competitor universities offer more scholarships than us. This research also showed that these scholarships are much larger than those currently offered by Aston. It will now be one of Helen’s priorities to look at how the University can raise more money to be offered for scholarships. Work has already stared with the alumni office to look at charities and foundations for funds and there has already been some success - the Fergusson scholarships are a fantastic example of this.
Helen says: ‘We were able to announce at the seminar that the annual giving programme has awarded some money for scholarships. This will be a growing amount that will allow us to give more scholarships over the next few years. We have £5k for this year and this means that each school will be able to give a scholarship. These will help with conversion. Next year there will be three more scholarships and these will be central ones so that we can target markets that we want to develop or diversify in.’
Words by Louise Russell