How can universities attract more students?

Over the last couple of years with fees increasing and new opportunities becoming available for further education we’ve seen Universities struggle to recruit new students. In fact, figures from UCAS, the university admissions service, show the overall number of British applicants was down by 3.4 per cent in 2017.

With the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the Government’s new ranking system, in which universities will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on a range of factors including student satisfaction, and teaching quality.

A PR agency can help deliver and communicate a University’s key messaging and initiatives that are in place. From recruiting journalists to targeted creative social media strategies or organising a press event, and media training your senior staff we’re here to help you to create a communications plan that can help get more students onboard.

Here are some of our top tips for student recruitment:

CSR initiatives

Companies are increasingly incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their business plans. Initiatives such as teaching kids in developing countries to code or donating money to charity and giving back to the wider community.

The University of Manchester CSR initiative engages students to become socially responsible leaders and citizens to addressing inequalities, the University is putting a lot of different programs in place.

One of their biggest challenges is to ensure their knowledge, expertise and activities help to create a fairer Greater Manchester. They launched the Manchester Access Programme which supports more than 1,800 local students from underrepresented backgrounds to study for a degree and progress into valuable professions such as medicine, teaching and law. They’re also leading an independent Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to help make poverty reduction central to processes of growth and devolution in their city region.

The University of Manchester is an excellent example of an effective CSR communication strategy. The information is easy to find on their website, it has also created some eye-catching collaterals as well as a short video explaining clearly what they’ve been doing to help the community which has already been shared and viewed by hundreds of prospective students. Don’t be afraid to shout about your CSR initiative it could be the key to attracting new talent and being a student’s first choice university.

Wellbeing and wellness

An Institute for Public Policy Research report last year showed that five times as many students as 10 years ago are reporting mental health conditions to their universities. This has led to an increasing number of charities and universities now acting to tackle mental health problems on campus and improve wellbeing among the student population.

Many universities now offer dedicated events and initiatives to enhance student wellbeing. The University of Leeds’ Light Cafe – which uses lighting to boost concentration, lift the mood and increase energy. Pet therapy sessions are used to tackle mental health such as those run at the University of Edinburgh, as well as numerous wellbeing cafes, and wellbeing zones.

The University of Edinburgh recently launched a mental health strategy that involves allocating £140,000 to their counselling services. They will train personal tutors in mental health first aid and offer online support and mindfulness courses to students.

Making sure your students are happy and in a good state of mind should be a priority. Whether you’re offering a mentor scheme, counselling or partnering with Samaritans, make sure your communication strategy incorporates it well with prospective parents and students.

Live Q&A

What better way to display your university’s human side to potential students than to showing the people studying there? Live content has an authenticity that can’t be duplicated. That’s part of the reason why 80% of customers say they’d rather watch a live video from a company than read their blog. It’s the same for Universities. A live video on Facebook or Instagram could help future students to get all the answers they want and accelerate their decision process. It’s also reassuring for newbies to see what other students look like and feel close to them. Live streaming has the benefit of providing unedited and unfiltered content.

In terms of communicating this live video it’s important to put in place a strategy. You want to make sure people watch the live stream, ask questions and follow up if they have any additional questions. Don’t be scared to advertise this on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the event and make sure people from the university also share it. Sharing on their network is powerful as they are your target audience. After the live post is done, don’t be afraid to create some content off of the back of it, create some infographics that you can share on Facebook with some interesting quotes and create a short video from the live video that you can also share.

Showcasing student life

360 Tours, fellow student video interviews, or simply a view of the campus is important for a University to have on their site where potential students can find answers to what life at the university is really like. The information needs to be accessible and showcase the facilities, accommodation and important student life frequently asked questions every parent or child wants to know. Choosing your university is a big decision.

Remember that your audience is Gen Z, a generation that is using digital media and will be looking at their answers online before any other medium. A great media to use is Youtube. The University of Bath produced an effective video showing accommodation, sport centres as well as the science labs all from a student’s prospective and narrative around campus.

London School of Economics have a great section on their site which includes virtual visits, student blogs and a podcast section where students share their views.

Case studies

Case studies are a great way to engage with students as they show the success stories of the university as well as the variety of career paths you can chose. Many universities have a section on their site where they can showcase their student’s success stories. Either having students writing blogs about their journey as a student, what they liked during their time at the University and how it helped them in their professional career. Many universities also chose to create videos of the students during graduation to show what their students have gone on to do after their studies

Swansea University is a great example, check out their “one year with” section on their website. You can follow the journey of a few students from their graduation to their active life. They will give you tips on how to make the most of your student years, tell you more about their studies, and how it helped them find their perfect job.

Research with B2B partners

Postgraduate students and PHD scholars can be some of the hardest spots to fill. Many students plan to continue their studies at the institute they studied for their undergraduate. Building in advertising and showcasing your B2B partners and research opportunities into your communications strategy can be key to attracting these students.

Don’t dismiss publishing your latest research developments and new partners in trade magazines, industry and events and awarding bodies. Utilise the professors and researchers you have on site,  their LinkedIn and twitter profiles are excellent places for students to find out about any new opportunities or latest developments.

There are many ways to attract fellow students but it’s clear that having a clear communication strategy in place is key. PR company will help you leverage your message and make sure you’re reaching out to the right audience by using the right tools.

If your university needs a boost for 2019, get in touch with our team of experts today.

Get in touch with the team