Rahul Choudaha: International Student Recruitment and Evaluation

I’ve been watching the changing ways in which colleges and universities recruit, evaluate and support international students. To better understand the issues I turned to Dr. Rahul Choudaha, (Higher Education Management Group member), who works with an international education services organization based out of New York.

KH: India, China, Malaysia and other countries have recently set targets to increase the capacity of their higher education sector. How might this increased capacity impact recruitment of international students in the UK, Australia, the U.S., and elsewhere?

RH: Local capacity building in the top feeder countries like China and India is expected to have a significant but mixed impact on the destinations like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. This impact will be felt in the medium and long term rather than short term. Most of the capacity building in the feeder countries is taking place at the undergraduate level and hence this will create an even larger pool of potential applicants at the graduate level. This is important considering that more than 70% of the Chinese and Indian students in the U.S. institutions are enrolled at the graduate level. However, on the downside, creation of local capacity in top feeder countries will stunt the growth of the undergraduate  recruitment, which has been gaining momentum in last few years.

At another level, key destinations will see differential impact. This is primarily because of the differential “country image” and also degree of emphasis on coordinated national level recruitment support. For example, even though American has a relatively strong “country image” for Indian students, its numbers may get impacted in the long term as U.S. does not have any national strategy of recruiting from India, while the U.K. and Australia are strategically integrating education with immigration.

KH: Some countries have taken a coordinated approach to the recruitment of international students by, for example, creating a national education brand rather than having each school act independently. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a coordinated approach? 

On the positive side, a coordinated approach brings more synergy and efficiency at the national level by enhancing overall country image as a destination. This also helps in creating a talent pool for the globalizing economies that are facing demographic challenges. Students benefit from the efficient decision-making process and application systems.

On the negative side, coordinated approach may limit some of the innovation and differentiation that may be applied more effectively at the institutional level. For instance, an Ivy League institution may not want themselves to be clubbed along with several lesser known institutions.

Specifically, in the American context, I think a national level branding is a huge undertaking and seems infeasible for a while. American institutions of higher education are revered world over for several of their unique characteristics, including the diversity and autonomy of institutions. In addition, with more than 4000 postsecondary institutions of higher learning, it is nearly impossible to create a nationally mandated or coordinated approach the way Australia or the U.K. has done. However, there is inevitable need for the American institutions to become more adaptable and amenable to the concept of education marketing and brand building. This would require collaboration across institutions and significant support from the government in creating better aligned policies for “attracting and retaining” talent.

KH: The challenge of evaluating an international student’s academic record is an old one. But as the volume and diversity of students increases, I’m curious how schools will manage. For example, do you see any movement in North America away from the use of transcripts as the measure of a student’s academic records to evaluations of the student through testing? 

RH: Undoubtedly, standardized testing is an important admissions criterion. This is especially important for international students as they come from different education systems. However, standardized tests have a limited validity alone and they have to be used in conjunction with other admissions criterion like GPA. But, GPA calculation for international students is a time intensive process; considering the number of countries and different types of institutions in each country. Credential evaluation for international students addresses the need of providing degree equivalence. In fact, WES is unique in credential evaluation as it not only provides equivalence but also authenticates the documents. In other words, receiving institution can have a peace of mind that the institutions are accredited and that documents are not forged. Overall, I do not see decline in the standardized testing or the use of credential/transcripts for admissions processes. As the number of international students and complexities of the international systems increase, use of both standardized testing or the use of credential/transcripts will increase in tandem.


Dr. Rahul Choudaha works with an international education services organization based out of New York. Rahul earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Denver and holds an MBA in Marketing and B. Engg. in Electronics. He presented at several professional conferences including ASHE, AACRAO, NAGAP, NASPA, QS APPLE and HGSE, Harvard University (rchoudaha@yahoo.com).



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