To work with universities, or not? That is the question


By Jackie Grisdale

I read, with interest, the latest High Fliers Graduate Market report recently. Unsurprisingly the report shares insight on the reducing volume of graduate opportunities amongst 100 of the larger graduate employers, but also gives an insight into how the market has changed their approach to attraction activity for this recruitment cycle.

What I found interesting was that employers have reduced the number of universities they have actively marketed opportunities at this season, from 24 to 21, with one in six not targeting specific universities at all.

Now, part of me is encouraged to see a break from the norm – there is too much targeting based on legacy and historic belief alone. I’m a huge advocate for reaching outside those traditionally targeted by top employers – as well as choosing the right universities to engage with based on market data and insight, understanding course composition and student demography within those institutions, and combining that with past application/recruitment data to understand where the opportunities are to attract the right type of talent. As an agency, we use YWare to support clients with these kinds of strategic decisions all the time, giving them the evidence for change and insight to gain a competitive edge.

So, naturally I am all for a shake-up. But what concerns me is the potential withdrawing of engagement with universities entirely. I think we all agree this year has presented its challenges, with applications soaring as high as 40% according to the report, it is natural that attraction activity will reduce. There’s also been a huge opportunity in switching to digital engagement, facilitating a much broader reach and engaging students from across multiple universities all at once.

But I believe engaging through Universities has to remain a key part of the strategy, especially when it comes to attracting those from underrepresented groups.

Universities are a key to unlocking potential for these students. They level the playing field for these students through their widening participation activity and are concerned about their graduate outcomes. They know who these students are in their institutions and they have multiple interventions to support them.

Some employers are concerned diversity initiatives have suffered because of an inability to run their normal on-campus activity. But just because we aren’t on campus doesn’t mean we can’t still work in partnership with universities to change futures for the better – harnessing a combination of targeted intervention and wider reaching engagement activity. In the past year, use of virtual open days, and online presentations have seen a stark increase in success, so let’s not leave those behind as we enter the updated normal.

So perhaps now is the time to rip up the rule book, to consider who you are targeting and how. So that when we begin to consider where we go out on campus next Autumn, we can embrace the benefits technology provides to extend our reach, but also harness the power of partnerships to ensure we target our interventions where they matter the most.

Ready to make a change? Get in touch to find out how YWare can help you navigate the university landscape and pinpoint which universities to target to reach the talent you are looking for.