Rethinking student recruitment strategy

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The student recruitment landscape has changed. Here's what we think.

It can’t be ignored that the coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. The way we shop, socialise and work have already been changed so dramatically that we may never do them the same as we did before. At least not for a long time.

Another area that’s seen a dramatic change is education. There are now lessons being delivered online to students that would never have expected to have their programme taught remotely. It’s a great thing to see, and a testament to the human spirit when faced with a crisis (‘keep calm and carry on’ comes to mind).

Across further and higher education, there will be many yearning to get back on campus – back to teaching their students, undertaking essential research and unlocking the potential of millions across the UK. But as we enter April, it seems a fair way off, with September looking like the next time the doors will open.

What that means is that there is a complete shift change for those students that looking to join in September, with the recruitment journey completely impacted by the events of the past couple of months. Some elements of the journey may just need a mere tweak and refine. Some will need marketers to reconvene at the drawing board.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve got our collective heads together to have a look at the trends and insights that will impact on the UK student recruitment market in the coming months. We’ve popped our thoughts on this blog.

Open days are over

With prospective students no longer able to come to campus, the open day and applicant visit day cycle is cancelled. There is a need for marketers to get creative with providing virtual open days and engaging ways to deliver their brand experience online, whilst still ensuring that the human element which will be lacking from no face-to-face interactions and experiential moments still comes resonates with students. And don’t forget parents and influencers (and schools), they need reassuring too.

Students can decide sooner, they may also change their minds too

Confirmation from the DFE that predicted grades are going to be used for GCSE and A Levels already provides a proportion of students with the confidence that they know what courses they can access, and exactly where they want to study. It also means that they have until the end of summer to change their mind. Inevitably, there will be increased competition in the marketplace which means there needs to be an eye on the competition and their key messages and tactics. And think substitutions, not just institutions – what else might students be doing instead of coming to college or university.

Sixth forms will secure learners sooner

A solid school CRM strategy has the power to lock students into A Levels months before the traditional GCSE results day. With many students not having yet been to an open day (I’m thinking of those late applicants), sixth forms may try and lock in these students now. There will certainly be a greater proportion of students who fear the unknown and sticking with their familiar surroundings by staying on at school might make more sense to them. More than ever, nurturing the applicants you already have in the funnel is a top priority. But that means that much of the content planned will probably defunct and will need a rapid rethink!

Students are likely to trade up

Students who have already been working well are now going to receive good grades are in no doubt excited about the prospect of trading up their offer to a programme or institution which might have previously been out of reach. So, there’s never been a more critical time to introduce human contact to understand the propensity to enrol and drill down into those forecasts. If they’re looking to trade up, what can be done to get them to trade with you?

There is no clearing rush

Historically, the mayhem of clearing has been a key part of the student recruitment calendar. With no last-minute rush to find a place, students will take a more considered approach to choosing their place, with a wealth of information to choose from. The question here is how to remain relevant and cut through the noise. The clearing peak is flattened and more needs to be done sooner to remain front-of-mind.

Time to think

Lots of food for thought, and that’s without even getting into the changing perceptions of the youth demographic. Confined at home for weeks, feeling of being robbed of proving themselves in their exams, and a rise in mental health issues… does this mean we will see a rise in breaks in education with more gap years and time off for travelling (if possible)? Or maybe more wanting to go straight into work to support families and communities that have seemed to suffer amid the current global crisis? Whatever the outlook, one thing is clear, this year’s student recruitment strategy is going to need a bit of a rethink.

About us

Golley Slater is an education sector specialist, with colleagues from industry supported by discipline experts who deliver campaigns for education partners and global brands alike.

Our end-to-end student recruitment model works from raising awareness, right through to enrolment. And our unique mix of capability ranges from media buying to one-to-one telephony engagement (and everything in between).

If you want to find out more, just drop us a line. We’d love to talk about the most successful channels to raise awareness of your proposition, how to drive interest from new customer segments or how to execute conversions from students with the greatest propensity to enrol.

Liam McNally, Business Development Director

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This article is published by Golley Slater PRM.
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