Basil Ali is the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Edumpus. With first-hand experience gained from his university days at UK, Basil understood the difficulties that young students faced while trying to access academic opportunities abroad. He realized the necessity of setting up a comprehensive online portal that offers solution for students who intend to pursue foreign education. He is a qualified engineer by profession with work experience spanning several countries including India, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. Basil has completed his Masters in Science specializing in Engineering from the De Montfort University, United Kingdom and has also been associated as a Project Officer during his time there.
When COVID-19 first hit the world in early 2020, businesses rushing to move online was seen as a temporary measure; that life would be back to normal in a few weeks or maybe months. But the scenario couldn’t be more different in 2021, with people slowly starting to accept that this is going to be the new normal. Higher education was among the sectors which were initially hit the most as overseas education and consulting more or less came to a halt. A ban on international travel and the shutting down of classrooms led to thousands of South Asian students stalling their higher education plans temporarily.
However, with more than 72,000 Indian students leaving for universities abroad already this year, one can safely assume that the only change seen in this pandemic has been the rapid digitisation in student recruitment – an industry that was hitherto not characterised by any online or digital engagement. This change has not only been driven by the supply side but also due to the fact that students increasingly want greater autonomy in their academic journey. This move to digitisation has come with its own set of advantages.
Fulfilling rural aspirations
Statistics are showing that the aspiration to study abroad and the means to afford it is no longer a privilege of the urban population. With digital educational consultancies, barriers of time and geography have all but disappeared as they offer a user-friendly and efficient system of virtual counselling. The success of this new system can also be attributed to a new generation of students being already comfortable with virtual interactions and showing ease in accessing information online without the need for physical interaction. Previously, as most of the traditional educational consultants were located in metro cities, only students from urban areas could access these services easily. But now, even a student from a Tier 2 city like Kozhikode or Nagpur can talk to a representative in Bengaluru or Delhi and access the best guidance that is available!
Smoother information flow
The times are such that students need the help of consultants more than ever, as uncertainties surround admission processes as well as COVID-19 readiness plans of their dream universities and the host countries. For students, consultancies have become the one-stop source for all such information. Digital consultancies are now hosting webinars that provide relevant and real-time information from the university directly and address specific concerns instead of relying on offline communication tools. Traditionally, educational fairs used to be elaborate events, but virtual fairs have enabled participation from more universities and their representatives, complete with virtual campus tours, scholarships, financial aid, governmental policies, part-time work opportunities and post-course job opportunities. ‘On-the-spot’ admissions can be done during these sessions as well.
Consultants can also offer personalised course options for students using futuristic technology like AI, based on their skill sets, interests and job aspirations. In other words, a student can choose a course and a university in a foreign country, get the application and visa processing done virtually all without visiting an office even once.
Turning adversity into opportunity
For consultants, the writing on the wall is clear. The student recruitment industry is ripe for digitisation and the pandemic has only accelerated the change. As internet penetration improves manifold, educational consulting and a slew of other sectors are making a case for being digital-first; newer agencies are getting registered without any brick and mortar offices. Without fixed expenses such as lease payments, administration and maintenance charges, existing companies have been able to cope better in this unprecedented situation.
Granted, credibility becomes suspect when there is neither an office building nor a face-to-face interaction, but then, both students and the companies are quickly adopting new strategies to check as well as offer credibility. Background checks and a thorough research of the websites of the companies is a must from the part of the students before choosing the best consultants for themselves.
All in all, it’s a win-win situation for the consultants as well as the students, and the new digital culture that has evolved in educational consulting promises to continue post-COVID-19 as well.