How has the pandemic shifted students' views on university recruitment?

The new normal, campus lockdowns, blended learning, centre assessed grades, vaccine passports - the already packed glossary of a HE professional has been filled with even more phrases in the last 18 months or so. And for our prospective students, it's no different and the challenge for them is that most are navigating this world for the first time.

We spoke to students from across the UK to get their view on how it feels to be part of the 2021 & 2022 cohorts. 

You can hear more from our students, the views of parents, HE experts and our top recruitment tips in our free pdf guide here. 


A taste of the action 

Our students talked about online taster lessons, opportunities for them to get a real feel of what learning at an institution would be like. Those who’d experienced tasters during online events found the sessions really valuable and it definitely helped shape their view of the institution positively. 

But for those who hadn’t been offered the opportunity during the events they attend they felt they had missed out:

“If they could give us taster lessons, so we could get a feel of how the course is going to be, that would be an improvement.”

Ikjot, Wolverhampton, Year 12 

Find out more about Springpod’s degree taster programme which combines course work, information about student life, and live or on-demand lectures to give students a rich snapshot of your university experience here.

Learn how giving students a real taster of your courses can drive applications, retention and engagement. 


Straight from the horse's mouth 

It was clear from the conversations with our students that a university's single greatest recruitment asset was its current students. 

Either through managed ambassador sessions in online event platforms:

“There were students there to show their own life and it was a good way to get to know what they do at university and what a typical day is like”

Prablene, Wolverhampton, Year 12 

Or perhaps more importantly through unofficial social channels:

“We can’t physically go to the place [where we want to study] and fall in love with it, so most people are therefore learning about those things from YouTube videos from previous students

Eleanor, Loughton, Year 13 

To hear the views of marketing leaders from across UK universities -  download the free guide

The interesting challenge for HE marketeers is how to manage those unofficial accounts, whether to embrace them warts and all or carefully curate a view of the university that meets brand standards. 

Letting anything go means accepting the rough with the smooth and risks of letting non-brand messages out on brand platforms. The alternative, however, is to strictly curate user-generated content and we know that if our savvy student audiences find any lack of authenticity an immediate turn-off. 

The reality is that if your students are sharing content on social channels then prospective students are likely to find it. If you can signpost the content that’s recent and helpful in a way that shows it's not coming straight from corporate channels then that can only be good in the long run. 


What’s next? 

It’s clear from our interviews and research that the pandemic has not dented the enthusiasm of our prospective students for university. What it has done is raise their expectations of what the digital recruitment experience should be and that is no more evident in open days, and especially in online events. 

Whether it's through official channels or peer to peer on social media, students want more information and interaction with HE institutions. To find out more and read our top tips you can download our free guide Online Open Days & Events: Our guide to what students, parents and HE Marketeers really think’  here or by clicking the button below.

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