The power of collaboration: impact of sector-wide research


By Tim Landucci

The recent SMRS and CASE Universities Marketing Forum (UMF) syndicated research project looking at the 2021 prospective student experience highlighted the hugely positive impact the HE sector has when it comes together.

The sector has had to adapt and re-focus priorities to the many challenges the last fourteen months have posed, but what was not clear is the impact the virtual application experience had on students planning on going to university this year.

To understand how this challenging and complex journey to university has impacted future students, 38 Higher Education providers took part in the sector-wide research to understand the impact the virtual application cycle has had on prospective students. The desire to learn from the last year, to improve the next, and help ensure the best possible student experience is delivered now and in the future was the key driving force.

The participating universities represent all UK countries and all mission groups, providing the breadth of student choice across the UK and an excellent overall barometer of experience across the sector.

The research identified many significant findings, including the student perspective towards returning to on-campus activities and events, the quality of the virtual experience they received, and the critical role of communications. And the outputs from this research will help inform strategic university decision-making in the months to come. As you can see from some of the recipients who said:

The Future Student survey carried out by SMRS is already proving to be invaluable to inform our marketing and student recruitment strategy as restrictions start to lift and we move forward with our plans to return to campus.

As an institution, we are committed to understanding the impact the pandemic has had on both our current and future students, and so choose to be involved in this very timely and dynamic research, which has provided us with fantastic insight from both our own applicants and applicants across the wider HE sector.

Jane Oswald, Head of Marketing Strategy, University of Sunderland

The findings are already proving extremely valuable in shaping conversations about the development of a new hybrid recruitment model.

Bernard Strutt, Head of UK Student Recruitment, The University of Manchester

We are really excited by this piece of syndicated research from SMRS. It came out of an idea from a Universities Marketing Forum (UMF) member who wanted to know more about the 2021 prospective students and how we could respond as universities to support them more during these uncertain times. We discussed it at a recent Universities Marketing Forum, and pretty much immediately, nearly 40 universities signed up to take part. A great example of the power of working together and the benefits of a member organisation.

Angelina Bingley, Director of Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing at The University of East Anglia

This research provided by SMRS on behalf of 38 universities has provided robust findings and an evidence base from which we can re-think the traditional student recruitment journey, which has been in place now for many years.

This research will underpin our thinking at Manchester regarding how we can innovate in the digital event space. In particular, we are thinking about how we can invest in technology to enhance the interactive nature of our online offer.

Claire Brown, Director, Communications, Marketing and Student Recruitment, The University of Manchester

The impact of this research is clear and points to further sector-wide collaboration in the future to achieve the best possible student experience. In fact, plans are already being discussed to conduct a follow up survey in the Autumn of 2021 and then to undertake a similar project focusing on the postgraduate market. If you’d like to hear more about this research and the other opportunities, get in touch.