Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has received an award for the best student recruitment campaign from the Times Higher Education Awards Asia.
The Times Higher Education Awards Asia event showcases the work taking place at universities throughout Asia and is judged by an expert panel. This was the second awards event since its launch, following the success of the original awards event based in the UK.
This award, in the category “Student Recruitment Campaign of the Year” recognized the outstanding success of OIST Graduate School’s strategic recruitment in 2019. As a result of their recruiting campaign, OIST saw the number of applications for the PhD program triple from the year before, with over 1500 applicants vying for one of the 60 coveted places.
The judges said: “OIST is a young institution aiming to build a high-quality research programme. In student recruitment, it is obviously disadvantaged when compared with institutions with a longer history and a more established reputation. To recruit well, the institution adopted a more targeted and strategic approach that has really paid off.”
The judges highlighted the multi-pronged approach taken by the Graduate School to reach prospective students, through brochures, internships and outreach activities.
One of the key recruiting pathways was via research internships, where students are invited to join a specific OIST research unit for 2 to 6 months for a project, working closely with students, post-docs and supervisors.
“Investing in research interns has always been important for OIST, particularly in the early days, as it gives them a real glimpse of what studying at OIST is like,” said Kozue Higashionna, manager of the Student Affairs Section. “Although we target only a small number of students, these interns increase exposure of OIST through word-of-mouth when they return to their own countries and importantly, they are also a source of future PhD students.”
Recognizing this, a new policy was put in place in summer 2019 to facilitate the process of applying for PhD positions for the research interns, by allowing them to undergo admission interviews while interning at OIST, instead of returning to OIST for an Admissions Workshop in either February or June.
Simon Hall, manager of the Academic Affairs section stated: “The research interns still have to meet the same rigorous academic standards in place for all prospective students, but the process is more streamlined, reducing time and cost for both OIST and the applicants.”
This year, around 10% of new PhD students joined the program and benefitted from the improved research intern pathway.
The judges also praised the ability of the recruiting team to tailor their approaches to both international and domestic Japanese students.
The recruiting team, headed by Kanako Aono, revamped the text-heavy brochure materials, suited to Japanese students, to be more eye-catching for international students. The redesigned brochure presented information in a bite-sized and creative way, accompanied by stunning panoramic visuals of the OIST campus.
The recruiting team also targeted interested students, predominantly Japanese, through outreach events, including Science Challenge, OIST Café and skill building workshops. These outreach activities were a resounding success, with around 20% of participants now accepted into the PhD or research internship program.
Yuuki Guzman, who manages the External Engagement Section, emphasized the contribution of the students and faculty to the outreach events. “We run these programs to help bring the new generation of talented students to OIST, so we’re very grateful to the whole OIST community for their commitment, effort and contribution to these outreach events. None of this would be possible without students, staff and faculty giving up their time for us,” he said.
Misaki Takabayashi, Vice Dean of the Graduate School, said: “It’s a huge honor to receive this award, and we are very proud of the success of the Graduate School. This award really is a testament to OIST as a whole. At the start, we had to work hard to sell the concept of OIST as something new, bold and exciting. 10 years on, the achievement of our first decade is now our most effective recruitment tool and this is down to the hard work done daily by all our staff, students and faculty. We are now looking forward to the challenging and rewarding task of maturing OIST’s identity on the world stage for the next decade.
From left to right (top): Simon Hall, Toshinori Matsui, Yuuki Guzmán, Shutaro Omine, Misaki Takabayashi.
From left to right (bottom): Kozue Higashionna, Hanako Adachi, Kanako Aono, Hiromu Josha.