31 Mar

UCAS Conference Review: What’s the student view?

Yesterday I presented at the UCAS Annual Conference running a session on international student decision making. Download the slides today.

Each year we survey students asking what’s important during the enquiry and application process.  One thing that is consistently highlighted as important to students at enquiry stage is “responsiveness of the university”, students use it as an indicator of teaching quality.  When it comes to responsiveness they expect a detailed reply within three days or a short reply within 24 hours.  You can get more insight in the full report Beyond the Data: Understanding International Student Decision Making.

As part of the session I asked the delegates when the last time was that they looked at their enquiry processes through the eyes of a prospective student, particularly an international student.  I also asked:

  • When did they last check out their competitor institutions?
  • Do they know how prospective students get to their site and what devices they are viewing the site on?
  • Is their response human or automated and does it feed into a CRM?

It’s important to experience your institution from the perspective of a potential student to ensure that your process is working, and also to identify opportunities for improvement. It’s also important to experience your competitor’s processes to see how it differs and what things you might be able to “borrow”.

Our goal is to support the institutions we work with stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, converting the right students at each stage of the lifecycle from curiosity to enquiry, enquiry to application and offer to enrolment.

How did the delegates respond?  They didn’t need to – there were 59 UK universities and colleges preregistered for the session and we’d mystery shopped all of them so we could tell them!

In terms of the type of response; four simply gave an auto response with nothing further, five gave an auto response then a human response and 25 gave a human response, in most cases with templates.  What’s of concern to us is that 25 failed to respond within three days or we couldn’t find a way to get in touch to ask questions.

Our email asked four questions, of those that did respond four answered none of the questions, four answered one, seven answered two, fourteen answered three and only three answered all four.

We know that some universities will have hundreds of emails a day and managing them can be difficult, but robust CRM should support you with this process.  Some other observations and comments from our mystery shopper…

The good…

  • “Straight to the point answers with links and videos that gave me answers to my questions.”
  • “Superbly answered all of my questions and gave me direct links to where I can find my answers and videos on the website give a good experience.”
  • “Great all round experience and lots effort made to answer my questions and additionally ask me questions to instigate a response.”

The not so good…

  • “A lengthy webform. Since a previous mystery shop using the webform on 13 Feb, I still have not received a reply.”
  • “No effort made to address my questions. Looks like they just copied and pasted text into an email. The only good thing is their branding.”
  • “Recipient’s mailbox is full and is not accepting any more messages.”
  • “Their International contact us page is in Chinese.”

If you are interested in your results or want any further information get in touch with me marie.clark@hobsons.com or 02072506622.

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