Enhancing International Students’ Experience in the UK through the Development of a Higher Education Co-opetition Framework: An Examination into Welsh Universities’ International Collaboration and Student Recruitment Activities
Co-opetition is an increasingly popular hybrid corporate strategy, combining cooperative competition and competitive cooperation (Bengtsson and Kock, 2014). It offers organisations five commonly utilised co-opetive models, namely strategic alliance, joint venture, franchising, licensing and co-branding, in which business partners work together to achieve mutual goals, as well as compete in a healthy marketing environment (Leitao et al., 2014). The core of co-opetition, known as the value net framework, provides organisations a guideline to create sustainable collaborative relationships with their external stakeholders and competitors, to provide enhanced services to their customers (Kotler and Armstrong, 2015).
Facing the intensified Higher Education (HE) competition both domestically and from overseas, this research testified the relevance, application and benefits of co-opetition into the UK HE sector. It analysed, through case studies, how the five models of co-opetition have been developed by UK universities and what benefits they have already brought to their consumers (i.e. the students) and the wider community. International student recruitments in the UK have suffered significant falls from the EU (down by 7% from 2016 to 2017) and some major overseas markets (Indian and Pakistan student numbers dropped by nearly 41% from 2011 to 2016), due to Brexit and increasingly strict immigration rules. However, student intakes from China have seen a steady year-by-year increase (BBC News, 2016 and Universities UK, 2017). China sent over 108,000 students to the UK in 2016 alone, making China by far the most important international students market for the UK (UKCISA, 2017).
By applying co-opetition theory, this research successfully established a co-opetive value net framework specifically designed for UK HEIs. It linked individual HEIs with their competitors, customers, complementors and suppliers. This study demonstrated clearly that co-opetition could enhance international student recruitment, improve student experiences, and strengthen UK HEIs' global competitiveness. This research offered a practical solution that enables HEIs to work with their competitors and external partners to deliver a more focused and personalised student service. It proved that co-opetition does not threaten the competitiveness of participating institutions. Instead, through this framework, HEIs can access shared resources and expertise more easily to support their development and offer better value for money for international students.
- School of Management