Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

Digital Transformation in International Student Recruitment and Higher Education Marketing. Meet the experts: Maria Nekrasova

MARIA NEKRASOVA is Co-Founder and CEO European Cultural Academy. She is an accomplished CEO and cultural entrepreneur with extensive experience in private educational institutions, strategic partnerships, and cultural branding. 

Maria brings over a decade of international experience in education management and business development. Most recently, she held the position of Vice President of Partnerships at Higher Ed Partners (HEP), Netherlands, where she spearheaded international strategic collaborations with universities. Before that, Maria managed a portfolio of online and blended MBAs at IE Business School in Spain. Since then, she has become an evangelist for the online format in higher education. Maria has a degree in Education from Moscow State University and a Master in Sociology from EHESS in Paris.


As an expert in online learning, could you share some insights on the positive impact of digital learning platforms on both students and educational institutions? How do these platforms contribute to student engagement, academic achievement, and institutional growth?

Digital learning platforms slowly but steadily re-shape the student and HEIs’ experience and I am sure that they are far from reaching their full potential.

One simple positive impact is that they bring the learning process closer to the work process. In multiple sectors the work now is 90% online/behind the computer so why education is different? It builds the skills necessary to succeed and make a smoother transition to the job market.

Secondly, if the lectures are pre-recorded, it allows faculty more time for research vs teaching and free a part of the university budget for other strategic projects allowing institutional growth not only in terms of brand and enrolments but also the quality of research.

Finally, online education promotes innovative approaches to student engagement. A person can spend five hours playing video games uninterrupted but not five hours studying in a classroom. So HEIs have to engage with a cross-disciplined approach, curiosity and desire to innovate to make the student experience better and that what makes it particularly valuable.


In your experience, what specific advantages do digital learning platforms offer to students and institutions in terms of flexibility, accessibility, and scalability? How have these platforms transformed the educational landscape and opened up new opportunities for students and institutions to thrive in the online learning environment?

We see now that online higher education is about access and affordability for students, and enrolment and revenue growth for universities. Online students perform equally or better academically and graduate at higher rates than their on-campus peers. We now live in exciting times when we can re-imagine what education and the learning process look like. Professors join from various parts of the world and students can start a degree programme even if they have family and work commitments. That drastically changes the possibilities for people with disabilities, parents and people with limited travel resources (including visa limitations and regions with less developed transportation systems).

Also, with online programmes it is easier to have multiple intakes per year. It allows more students to start without drastically adjusting their schedule or waiting (sometimes months) till the next intake. It allows universities to catch more students that otherwise would have chosen a competitor.

Finally, the Universities get students who otherwise would have never come on campus because they are busier and live hundreds of miles away. Universities enhance their brand not only in new geographical regions but in a new space - the space of online education.

Article featured on Worldbound, edition 9-2023.