Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

Digital Transformation in International Student Recruitment and Higher Education Marketing. Meet the experts: Ilaria Bossi

ILARIA BOSSI is the Associate Director for International Marketing and Recruitment at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy. 

An international education enthusiast, she has six years of experience in managing student recruitment at the undergraduate and graduates level, collaborating with more than 50 recruitment agencies worldwide.

Ilaria is a frequent speaker at IACAC and CIS and has presented at other HE conferences (eg. NAFSA), focusing on the Italian HE system.

She has been a SUCTI trainer since 2018 and has run successful SUCTI trainings at her institution. Since July 2020 she is also a member of the Professional Development Committee within International ACAC. Ilaria holds a Bachelor’s degree in Languages for International Relations and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy.

She was elected in the Expert Community Marketing and Recruitment as a Steering Group member for the term of 2022-2024.


As a senior international student recruiter, how has digital recruitment reshaped the competition among universities in the international arena? In what ways have universities adapted their strategies to stand out in the digital space and attract prospective international students?

The pandemic has marked a clear divide in the way many universities were carrying out their international recruitment strategies, at first making digital recruitment the only option to continue attracting international students, and then, as we come back into a hybrid world, a fundamental pillar in the marketing mix of many.

Through digital recruitment strategies, universities can now have a truly global reach, targeting new or remote regions and connecting with prospective students who didn’t have this chance before.

Universities with smaller budgets or teams benefitted from this, being now on the radar of a wider audience thanks to virtual tours and fairs as well as webinars, that cut down time and budget constraints of physical travel. It is now taken for granted the importance of personalised, peer-to-peer and on-demand communication, which also requires trained and dedicated staff. Content marketing and genuine storytelling have become fundamental to improving online visibility and brand awareness, especially through social media and automatised communication plans. Universities feel more than ever the need to establish a common ground with their target audiences, particularly Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who often drive the adoption of new and upcoming technologies.

Finally, a balance between investments in digital and in-person activities are fundamental to supporting innovation and competitiveness, while also safeguarding staff health and preventing burnout. After the first wave of massive adoption of different tools, universities are slowly becoming more selective about which digital activities to implement. This is possible thanks to the massive quantity of data provided by the latter compared to offline activities, as universities can now track website traffic, engagement metrics, and conversion rates, gaining valuable insights into their audience and defining better strategies to maximise their ROI (return on investment).

Article featured on Worldbound, edition 9-2023.