Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

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Digital Transformation in International Student Recruitment and Higher Education Marketing. Meet the experts: Girish Ballolla

GIRISH BALLOLLA was born and raised in Bengaluru where he completed high school before moving to the US in 1992 to pursue a college education. He received a BSc in Genetics and Cell Biology and a MSc in Higher Education Administration from the University of Kansas.

Prior to founding Gen Next Education, he spent over 13 years in Human Resources, Sales and Marketing, Operations, and Supply Chain Management in a variety of industries in the US ranging from chemicals to home improvement, from educational institutions to non-profits, from start-ups to a Fortune 500 company. As the CEO of Gen Next Education, Girish is responsible for envisioning the strategic direction for Gen Next and spends most of his time nurturing relationships across the globe to further Gen Next’s mission of bridging Global Education.

He’s a rabid Kansas Jayhawks fan, an avid reader, and a National Geographic junkie. A wanderlust at heart, when he’s not goofing around with his three daughters, Maya, Mala, and Shivaa in their Woodbury, MN home, you can find him eagerly awaiting the next boarding call. 


How has the digital age transformed international student recruitment strategies, particularly in relation to attracting and engaging Indian students?

The digital age has brought about a revolutionary transformation in international student recruitment strategies, with profound implications for attracting and engaging Indian students. The rapid advancement of technology, coupled with the increased accessibility of the internet, has reshaped the landscape of higher education marketing and communication.

In the context of attracting Indian students, digital platforms have enabled universities to reach a wider audience with tailored and culturally relevant content. Social media, search engines, and online advertising have become invaluable tools to create brand awareness and showcase the unique offerings of institutions. Universities can now personalise their messaging to resonate with Indian students' preferences, aspirations, and concerns, thereby establishing a more meaningful connection.

The digital age has also democratised information dissemination, allowing Indian students to explore various study options and destinations more comprehensively. University websites, virtual tours, and online open houses provide a virtual experience that aids Indian students in making informed decisions. Additionally, digital platforms, like our very own connectED and gradED platforms, facilitate real-time communication, enabling prospective students to seek clarifications and engage with admissions officers directly, bridging the geographical gap and easing the decision-making process.

Furthermore, the rise of online education fairs, webinars, and social media engagement has revolutionised student recruitment events. Universities can now seamlessly connect with Indian students without the constraints of physical presence. These platforms offer insights into the institution's academic programmes, campus life, and scholarship opportunities, thus fostering a sense of belonging before even stepping foot on campus.

An added, and often overlooked, benefit of leveraging digital platforms is the positive impact it can have on the environment. Since recruiters can now “travel” across the world without leaving the comfort of their homes or offices, they are reducing their carbon footprint. In addition, digital brochures, information packets etc. reduce the need for printed material leading to more sustainable practices.

Crucially, data analytics and AI-driven tools empower institutions to track and analyse engagement patterns, enabling them to refine their strategies continually. By identifying what resonates with Indian students and adapting content accordingly, universities can enhance their appeal and effectiveness in attracting them.

However, while the digital age offers immense opportunities, it also demands a strategic approach. Institutions must ensure their digital presence is user-friendly, culturally sensitive, and respects data privacy. Moreover, the personal touch must not be overlooked – Indian students value genuine interactions, and universities should balance virtual engagement with opportunities for direct human connection.

The digital age has redefined international student recruitment, particularly in attracting and engaging Indian students. Leveraging digital platforms wisely allows universities to transcend borders, foster meaningful connections, and provide comprehensive information, thus transforming the way institutions approach global student recruitment.


What are the key challenges and opportunities that arise from the rise of AI in international student recruitment, specifically for institutions targeting Indian students, and how can these challenges be effectively addressed to enhance recruitment outcomes?

The rise of AI in international student recruitment presents both challenges and opportunities for institutions targeting Indian students. India is one of the largest source countries for international students, so understanding the unique dynamics of this market is crucial. Here are some key challenges and opportunities, along with strategies to address them effectively:


  1. Competition: Indian students have a wide range of options when it comes to studying abroad. The competition among institutions is fierce. AI can help institutions personalise their outreach and offerings to stand out.
  2. Information Overload: There is an abundance of information available online about study abroad options which easily overwhelms students. AI can help streamline and personalise information to match individual needs and interests.
  3. Language and Cultural Barriers: Language and cultural differences can be barriers, particularly for Indian parents who are an integral part of the decision-making. AI-driven chatbots and translation services can assist in overcoming language barriers and providing culturally relevant information.
  4. Financial Concerns: Cost is a significant factor for Indian students. AI can be used to provide financial planning tools, scholarships, and funding information to alleviate concerns.
  5. Visa and Immigration Challenges: Navigating visa and immigration processes can be daunting. AI-powered chatbots can provide guidance and support throughout these processes.


  1. Personalisation: AI can analyse data to tailor recruitment efforts to individual students. Institutions can provide customised information on programmes, scholarships, and support services, increasing the likelihood of enrolment.
  2. Efficiency: AI can automate many routine tasks such as initial inquiries, document verification, and appointment scheduling. This frees up staff to focus on more strategic aspects of recruitment.
  3. Data Analytics: AI can provide insights into trends and preferences among Indian students. This data can inform marketing strategies and programme development.
  4. Improved Communication: Chatbots and AI-driven communication platforms can provide instant responses to student queries, improving engagement and satisfaction.
  5. Virtual Campus Tours: AI-powered virtual tours can give Indian students a realistic view of campus life, helping them make informed decisions.


  1. Invest in AI Technology: Institutions should invest in AI tools and platforms that can help with data analysis, chatbots, and personalisation of communication.
  2. Cross-Cultural Training: Staff should undergo training to understand the specific needs and expectations of Indian students, helping to build trust and rapport.
  3. Multi-Lingual Support: Offer information and support in multiple Indian languages to make prospective students and parents feel more comfortable and informed.
  4. Transparency: Provide clear and transparent information about fees, scholarships, and visa processes to address financial concerns.
  5. Collaboration: Partner with organisations, counsellors, and alumni networks to expand your reach and credibility within the Indian student community.
  6. Regular Feedback: Use AI to gather feedback from enrolled Indian students and make improvements based on their experiences.
  7. Compliance and Support: Ensure that your institution is compliant with Indian regulations and offers support for visa and immigration processes.

In conclusion, the rise of AI in international student recruitment offers the potential for institutions to target Indian students to enhance their recruitment outcomes. By addressing the challenges through technology, personalisation, and strategic partnerships, institutions can effectively tap into this important market and attract more Indian students.

Article featured on Worldbound, edition 9-2023.