Always have a Plan B
Readers of this blog will remember my frequent advice about always having a Plan B baked into strategic international plans. In a world that often seems to be dominated by terrorism, economic turmoil, and the unexpected, it is not only recommended but necessary to have alternative sources of enrollment and revenue.
Let’s consider a few examples:
Last year the government of the UK decided to conduct a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union. The majority of people in Britain and around the world believed that the vote would be to remain. That is not how it turned out and now many colleges and universities, both in the UK and worldwide, are dealing with the fallout of the vote. How leaving the EU will ultimately impact higher education enrollments remains to be seen. But having a Plan B just in case the vote was to leave the EU, would have given colleges and universities an opportunity to better plan and position themselves to deal with the consequences of the vote to leave.
In Saudi Arabia, when King Abdulla died, I would have immediately planned a new and different strategy to recruit students from Saudi Arabia. It should not surprise anyone that the scholarship program named after the late king would be scaled back. At the annual NAFSA meeting in June, 2016, it was announced that 80 percent of colleges and universities with English language programs had declines in Saudi enrollment in spring, 2016 and more than 50 percent expected a decline in the fall, 2016 semester. Did any of these schools have a Plan B for Saudi Arabia?
Does your school have a plan to offer online courses to international students? Currently there are approximately 4,200 MOOC courses offered by more than 500 universities. In an article written by Rachel Merola and published by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education, the author writes that the top two countries for online learning are India and China. There are 5.42 million distance learning enrollments in India and enrollments are predicted to increase ten percent by 2019. For further information, read “Going the distance: what does data tell us about cross-border online leaning.”
While I don’t think it is necessary to hire a researcher to scan the globe for both opportunities and potential danger, I do think someone in the international student office should be responsible for PlanB.