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UK Enrolment Growth After the Cap

Admissions success depends on marketing and strategic recruitment efforts

January 30, 2018
 
 

Before reading this post, please note that I've lived in the UK for less than 5 years...so my knowledge of higher education history "across the pond" is an ever-expanding enterprise. Also, while strategic enrollment management/growth in the US has been around for quite some time, here in the UK, it's still relatively new in terms of the growth aspect. Additionally, enrolment is the correct spelling for the UK. Lastly, a lot of my thinking on HE issues in the UK often begins via comparison to my US lens/experience.

Starting in 2015-16, UK universities have been able to recruit as many students as they like. Prior to that recruitment cycle, an enrolment cap had been in place that controlled the total number of students at a university. These student number controls meant that the sector functioned quite differently from universities/colleges in the US in terms of admissions, recruitment, and tactical enrolment.

On Monday, Arthi Nachiappan and David Kernohan, published a post on Wonkhe about the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) "end of cycle 2017 statistics." Essentially, it's a deep dive into the offers, acceptances, and applications "over the last year in [UK] higher education recruitment."

It's fascinating to read into how the ripple effect of the removal of the enrolment cap is now directly impacting institutional admissions success.

Whilst the application and acceptance processes in the UK are very different than in the US, the marketing of universities and specific degree programs is remarkably similar.

For example, the end of cycle article includes this statement: "Increasingly, recruitment is a marketing-led process, with institutions using a variety of media to encourage students to enter that all-important alphanumeric code on their UCAS form."

Imagine reading that sentence if you work within enrolment, admissions, or marketing for a US university or college. It's almost as if the UK model of higher education is becoming more and more like a reflection of (at least) marketing/communications in the US.

Whilst this lead in for the "end of cycle" article from the Wonkhe Monday Morning HE Briefing might be a comment on the way things are headed within UK HE, it's the normal story for a lot of US universities/colleges:

Increasingly, in this era of uncapped student recruitment in England, it is the number of applications that demonstrates how well the institution is performing – a high number can make for more selectivity or more growth depending on institutional preference, and is exemplified by the number of offers made.

More and more, even in my own UK consulting, I've been having conversations with uni reps about how all digital engagement efforts impact student recruitment efforts.

For example, I was recently putting on a workshop at a university on how academics can use social media to enhance engagement with research. There were multiple attendees who wanted to use the tactics/strategy/concepts from my session and use them in ways that connected academics, research, and recruitment initiatives.

In 2018 (and beyond), how UK universities share their unique story (research, student experience, etc.) is a crucial aspect of marketing, communications, and recruitment.

As the pool of potential (domestic) students shrinks, the recruitment efforts of UK universities to grow their student enrolments has become a matter of necessity.

It's important to note that university recruitment isn't just a marketing process. Every single member of a university represents "the brand" and is part of the recruitment process.

Marketing may be leading the process, but the entire institution plays a vital role in recruiting new students via a variety of channels.

 

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