How we helped Anglia Ruskin University build valuable connections during very challenging times


By Jon Kirk

Influencers, spoken poetry, and a worldwide pandemic. Anglia Ruskin University didn’t know what 2020 would bring them, but they knew they needed our help to increase their yearly intake. After launching a successful rebrand of the university, it was time for them to create some standout campaigns that showed their new rebrand, and inspired thousands of potential students.

They had big plans, and some exciting challenges. They wanted to increase their eligible students for 2021 entry, grow their Clearing applications and keep their ‘always on’ campaign rolling. So, we started by taking a look together at their 2019 performance, which gave us the potential to increase student numbers. Then, we developed their campaign, based around ARU’s student focused proposition – Do the extraordinary. We implemented a digitally focused campaign across 11 different digital channels, tracked performance across markets and analysed previous data so we could continually optimise the campaign. We also kept an eye on what was happening in the wider UG market, as well as the societal context of the pandemic to make sure our campaign delivered value.

Throughout the campaign, SMRS and ARU focused on achieving the best possible results through collaboration and optimisation ensuring a joined-up approach throughout. Our messaging was sensitive to the pandemic aiming to reassure students and explain ARU’s efforts to develop a COVID-safe environment. ARU also adapted their landing pages throughout to highlight how they were helping their students through the pandemic. They shared student created content and storytelling to further communicate the message of ARU students doing ‘the extraordinary’.

With the help of inspiring and relatable micro-influencers, we were also able to create engaging content highlighting the positive impact that going to university had on their lives. We believe the culmination of our collaboration, optimisation, use of historical and in-campaign data and creative approach ensured the campaign was a success. ARU achieved:

  • 34% increase in January 2021 UCAS deadline applications.
  • Every faculty saw a large increase, with the lowest being 19%
  • Looking further back we saw a 36% increase in Clearing applications and 18% overall growth in undergraduate students in 2020.