International Higher Education

How high-quality content boosts student engagement

In February 2018 we launched a new approach to content across our 11 international Hotcourses sites with each site focused on specific source countries and prospective students within those countries looking for study opportunities abroad. Content hubs were introduced that feature institutions to users through video-focused content, coupled with strong visual representation and key written information divided into clearly demarcated sections.

Prior to this new approach, institutions were featured through more one-dimensional provider adverts with heavy text and fewer visuals. Today we have 243 institutions using live content hubs and a few still using provider adverts. To illustrate the power of content hubs and their rich content, we looked at select performance metrics comparing content hubs and provider adverts from April 2018 to April 2019.

Chalmers University of Technology

Click on image to see what a content hub looks like. This one of Chalmers University of Technology was produced by the IDP Connect video team.

Content hubs receive 7.5 times more email submits

Looking at email submits for the specified period, there’s a marked difference between institutions with content hubs versus those with traditional provider adverts. Those with content hubs received significantly more email submits – this refers to users clicking on a button to fill out a university enquiry form. Over the whole period, content hubs received 54,249 email submits, while provider adverts only received 7,157. That means that content hubs received 7.5 times more email submits compared to provider adverts. The best-performing month for content hubs was February 2019 with 5172 (94.24%) email submits recorded versus 316 for provider adverts.

This trend suggests that prospective students who land on institutional profiles rich in engaging content such as video are much more inclined to take the next step of filling out a university enquiry form, a crucial step in the recruitment journey.

Content hub

Content hub for the University of Sheffield. Click on image to view content hub.

James Smurthwaite, Editor of Hotcourses Abroad, adds: “Content hubs provide a bespoke, information rich platform uniquely tailored to the needs of students. With original, high-quality and professional content, engagement levels increase significantly. This allows institutions to effectively communicate their proposition with clarity.”

Content hubs

The orange line represents email submit via content hubs, while the red line represents provider adverts.

Average time on page

The time a user spends on a page indicates how relevant and engaging the content is. Content hubs are designed to engage users from the moment they land on the page. The header section is a customised auto-play video that not only informs users about an institution, but also serves to inspire them. Key information is then presented beneath the video and broken down with clear subheadings and visuals. In contrast, provider adverts don’t display video content and are much more text-heavy.

Looking at April 2018-2019, the effectiveness of content hubs is clearly visible with time on page averaging out at 1min 55 seconds. Average time on page for provider adverts only came to 1min 26 seconds.

Tom Jackson, Web Analyst at IDP Connect, says: “High time on page is a really positive indicator of quality content. It suggests that the information is engaging, while also informing students in their research.”

Our analysis suggests that the richer the content, the longer users are bound to engage with it. This is an important consideration for institutions that want to create demand as effectively as possible.

Content hubs

The orange line represents average time on page for content hubs, while the red line represents provider adverts.

Email submits by destination

When combining content hubs and provider adverts over the set period, our data shows that institutions in the UK receive the highest number (17,000) of email submits, followed by Australia (14,000), the USA (11,000), Canada and Malaysia.

Interestingly, UCAS data for the last cycle shows applications from outside the UK for institutions within the UK have reached an all-time high. In fact, this year’s figures show an 8% increase in applications compared to last year. Read more about it here.

The bar graph indicates countries receiving email submits.

Key takeaways

The power of rich content in boosting marketing and recruitment efforts cannot be overestimated. Key takeaways from our data include:

• Institutions with content hubs receive 7.5 times more email submits than institutions with provider adverts only.

• The average time on page for content hubs is 1min 55 seconds, while for provider adverts it’s 1min 26 seconds. This indicates that rich content leads to higher levels of engagement.

• Across our Hotcourses international sites, the top three destination markets that received the highest number of email submits from users are: UK (17,000), Australia (14,000), and the USA (11,000).

[Data compiled by Tom Jackson, IDP Connect Web Analyst]

To find out more how your institution can reach more students through content hubs, contact us on   Other services offered include content writing for specific markets, video production and stills production. Find out more here.

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