The global coronavirus pandemic has ground international travel to a halt. That’s bad news for more than just the airline and hospitality industries. It poses a significant challenge for the UK’s higher education institutions that depend on attracting students from overseas. 

In many ways, institutions are learning to see this slowdown in global travel as a practice run for what’s to come. Climate change has put the travel sector into a state of deep uncertainty, with international regulation and falling demand for flights being chief concerns. It’s unlikely that the international travel sector will look the same in 20 years.

Many universities are attempting to remain relevant on the international stage by delivering courses online. But that’s no easy – or cheap – task. And even if universities are able to create a competitive digital offering, the challenge of marketing internationally remains. 

This week, we’re taking a close look at the three core channels that will become invaluable in the long term. These channels shouldn’t be anything new to you. However, it’s useful for us to spend some extra time contemplating some great examples of these powerful marketing assets. 

Virtual Tours

It’s highly likely that students will be able to travel to study abroad. But they’ll no longer be able to visit multiple campuses with such strict travel measures in place. If prospects can’t view your campus and facilities, they’re unlikely to sign up for years of study. That’s why you might want to introduce students to virtual tours, just like Manchester University has.

Manchester University recently launched a guided virtual tour of its campus, facilities and housing. As you virtually walk through the numerous buildings that make up its campus, a narrator details its facilities while promoting their benefits. You can also view panoramic photos of lecture halls, labs and accommodation. Overseas students are able to picture themselves at the university from their home countries thanks to this feature.

Virtual Open Days

Virtual tours are beneficial because they’re accessible 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. However, as useful as they are, virtual tours don’t provide prospects the opportunity to ask questions about courses, facilities, activities or their future. This is why many universities host virtual open days.

Increasingly, universities are opening their doors to the public to host ‘conventional’ open days, but such open days can rarely be attended by overseas students facing strict travel restrictions. To overcome this obstacle, institutions such as the University of Portsmouth have started hosting virtual open days. Students usually need to book a slot in advance to attend these events.

Giving prospects the opportunity to ask questions, talk to students and discuss any concerns with real lecturers and professors helps build trust and loyalty. If you decide to host a virtual open day, you should advertise it weeks or months in advance to maximise your audience. Make sure prospects can also access recordings and view course materials as well as ask questions.

Just as the University of Oxford does, you should also make materials from previous virtual open days available to prospects. On the University of Oxford website, you can listen to live Q&A sessions from previous open days. You can also listen to live webinars and seminars that address student’s needs and align course materials with tomorrow’s world of work.


One of the most innovative digital marketing campaigns we’ve seen in recent years was launched by the University of Melbourne. It uses both video and augmented reality to demonstrate how its courses focus on the student’s life after graduation. Today’s students understand that tomorrow’s world will look very different. They need reassurance that what they learn now will remain relevant, a fear that the University of Melbourne adequately addressed in its ‘Melbourne Model’ video campaign. Marketing a message of real-world preparedness is now crucial, but it’s a goal you can accomplish using the power of the web.

Investing in virtual tours, hosting virtual open days and launching digital advertising strategies will be critical for the coming decades. If you’d like to learn more about these great tools, get in touch with us here at The Brand Education. We’re more than happy to tell you about how they can be applied for future success and stability.