Thinking in marketing, recruitment and admissions across the UK will have been further sharpened last week with the release of UCAS’ 2017 applicant figures.

While over half a million students (564,190) have applied to university in the UK for 2017, entry to full-time undergraduate courses are down five percent from last year’s numbers and the lowest number of applicants since 2013. Applications from the European Union were also down by seven percent, a sharper and potentially more concerning decline.

Whilst these declines have been widely anticipated and the reasons well documented, fewer students in September is now becoming a real possibility at many institutions because of changes to funding for nursing places, lower demand from older students, slower growth among applications from 18-year-olds and the impact of the Brexit vote being felt on EU applications. This is particularly the case for many lower-tariff institutions, who after seeing some of the largest gains in 2013 have seen their position steadily decline and fall sharply this cycle.

From the conversations that we’ve been having over the last few months, strategies to ensure as many students from the applicant pool convert into enrolled students in September are top of mind.

My three top tips for student recruitment teams in the the coming six months are:

  1. Smartly coordinate relevant conversion activities to maximise impact. For example, use calling to drive open day attendance or schedule overseas meetings as well as directly remove barriers to offer acceptance.

  2. Break down conversion stages into smaller steps so that your conversion team really sees how they are influencing the progression of prospects towards enrolment.

  3. Put your performance into context by comparing conversion rates across markets, study levels, and lead sources with other benchmark universities.

Hobsons works with universities from across the sector and later this month we’ll be hosting them in London for our annual Hobsons University Conference.  

The conference theme this year is helping students finish what they start. Whilst this was originally intended to be about the whole student lifecycle, in light of the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework and the increased focus on student success, I am sure for many of our delegates this will take on a sharpened focus: how can I ensure that as many students as possible who have started to consider my university finish up enrolling in September.

Content throughout the day has been devised specifically to focus on this. Our 25 session choices include:

  • Top tips for a successful international digital campaign

  • Data - what do we know about international conversion

  • Moving forward in a mobile world - optimising your communications

  • How students make choices about where they study

  • Improve your click-through rate using email best practice

  • New insight on international student decision-making

If you are a Hobsons client and haven’t registered, please register here. Places are very limited! If you aren’t yet a client but would like to talk to us about how we can support you enhance conversion over the next six months, please contact us here.


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