An update on student recruitment

Simone Davies

Before coronavirus hit, we were making good inroads into the University’s approach to marketing, and the initial signs for undergraduate Home recruitment were looking good, including better performance than competitors and an increase in firm acceptances. Plans and campaigns were in place; we were on a relatively good trajectory.

We have now obviously had to review things, change our thinking and put in place a wide range of mitigating actions. It’s not particularly straightforward – nor easy – but we are making good progress. Below is a summary of where we are, under our two main aims: ensuring the ‘arrival’ of 2020 students and recruiting to 2021.

  1. We are moving from a ‘push’ strategy to a ‘pull’ strategy. This will see us signposting to information so that individuals can personalise their own journey, deciding (with clear direction) how, when and how much they want to engage. This means we are sensate to what’s going on in their lives, which will be different for all.
  2. We are flipping from a ‘Think Global, Act Local’ approach to a ‘Think Local, Act Global’ strategy. This will bring consistency to marketing activity and ensure that all applicants have a positive and similar experience.
  3. Applicant Day Mitigation – a range of activities are in place to mitigate the cancellation of applicant days, including virtual events, webinars, live Instagram and email comms. We are also creating a suite of videos that showcase the University, which will also be used for future recruitment.
  4. Conversion Comms – we paused conversion comms planned up to 4 May as they formed part of the old ‘push’ strategy, plus this was superseded with emails providing reassurance and information around the exam situation. We will shortly resume, but the tone and content will be more appropriate to what’s taking place, with more directing to where to find content – again focusing on the ‘pull’ rather than the ‘push’.
  5. Late Applicants Campaign – this was paused given it was unlikely that applying to university was going to be anyone’s top priority over the past fortnight. However, we will be restarting soon, supported by a new data capture form across the course pages and other appropriate areas of the site.
  6. Clearing – with no traditional Clearing we are having to reassess our approach. Our current thinking is a ‘front of mind’ campaign during June and July with a focus on both 2020 and 2021 recruitment – however, this may change as we find out more about how predicted grades will be given.
  7. Open Days – we are working on the assumption that there will not be a July Open Day so have paused the campaign that was about to go live. Instead, we are looking moving to a virtual experience on a set day. While it’s early days for this, we’re on track to have a virtual open day experience delivered in June using filming finished just before the lockdown.
  8. Out of Home – With everyone now inside, we’ve moved our ‘out of home’ campaign to support the open days to later in the year, free of charge
  9. We are working on a revised approach to UG to PG for our current students. We are also revisiting the PGT external campaign including the creative direction and messaging.
  10. We are plugged into a 500+ student panel that is helping shape our thinking and understanding of where our UG target audience is at. And we are thinking about some future scoping research to look at how this impacts on what tomorrow’s students will want to study.

Alongside this, we had already moved to a ‘digital-first’ strategy which is now being ramped up further. This includes widening the appeal of an App we’ve developed aimed at improving conversion (in the app store very soon.)

Our plans are by nature fluid, ensuring we can respond to changes and adapt quickly. I am supported by both a fantastic team and amazing colleagues across the University, without which none of this would be possible.

Simone Davies | Interim Director of Marketing