x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Facebook proves friend for Dubai universities

Social networking is helping Emirate's colleges to recruit new students from around the globe.

DUBAI // Universities in Dubai are increasingly turning to social networking sites as a way of reaching out to potential students across the region - and beyond. SAE Institute in Dubai began using blogs about three years ago, moving on to YouTube, then Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Digg. Social networking now accounts for about 20 per cent of student intake, said Hiba Aoudi, the school's student recruitment officer.

Facebook has proven to be the most efficient of all, she said, providing "a whole community", where potential and current students can keep updated. "Social networks play a big part in creating this 'word of mouth' promotion, and it is through our activities on these sites that we grab a significant portion of our total enrollees," she said. Omar Ibouten, 26, is a sound engineering student from Morocco studying at SAE in Brussels. It was Facebook that led him to the Brussels campus, and he joined the Dubai page because he is interested in earning a degree there.

Lejla Vrazalic, an associate professor at the UK's Middlesex University in Dubai, said the school began using sites such as Facebook and Twitter for promotion two years ago. This autumn, they were responsible for at least five per cent of intake. "This is developing and we expect this number to increase significantly over the next two years," he said. "This July we had a campaign on Facebook to raise awareness about our new programmes, including journalism, and the response was very positive."

Kevin Dunseath, acting director at Michigan State University's Dubai campus in Knowledge Village, said social networking sites have become an essential part of the university's marketing. "You have to use them," he said. "You have to be more adventurous and inventive in terms of the marketing media." The Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai, a branch campus of the American university, has 735 members on its Facebook page.

The university had also subscribed for the last year, and claim it is a much more efficient, cheaper way to reach students than print media, according to Hanan Khamis, director of student recruitment and marketing. She says that thanks to being able to target users by such factors as age and location and tallying the numbers of clicks, it has reached out to students in some surprising countries, "We got students from Kenya, Ghana, Azerbaijan, Romania, all through Facebook. We used Facebook this last year as it was good to target the undergraduate students and for the post-grad students, we've found LinkedIn to be really useful too."

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