Clever tech saves University recruitment fair

A UNIVERSITY facing the bleak prospect of cancelling a crucial student recruitment fair instead enjoyed huge success - by reimagining it as a virtual gathering.

Potential students from 14 countries visited the event from the safety of their homes, as they exchanged almost 1,200 messages as part of the digital fair.

The event, at the University of Bolton in Lancashire, England, was powered by The Access Platform (TAP), a peer-to-peer edtech company working with some of the world’s leading universities to help boost their recruitment.

Nik Higgins

Nik Higgins, who is TAP’s Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder, said: “Following campus closures and event cancellations, universities across the world are now facing serious challenges when trying to engage and build relationships with prospective students.“Recruiting students for the September 2020 enrolment period is still a critical priority, and with staff suddenly having to work remotely, the University of Bolton moved quickly to host their open days online.

“We have introduced a number of measures to help universities as they face unprecedented challenges. Taking advantage of TAP’s offer of free additional accounts to help with communications during the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Bolton created a new page on their website called Chat to our Staff, in addition to their existing Chat to our Students page.

“That afforded them a high level of versatility and interconnectivity when engaging with students as questions which, perhaps one colleague or ambassador could not answer, could quickly be redirected to someone who could.”

From taking the decision to move the event into a virtual space on Tuesday March 17, the university had selected, trained, and set up 69 staff members ready for the first open day at 9am on Saturday 22 March, which ran for four hours.

Over the course of the Virtual Open Day, 45 prospective students from 14 different countries around the world took part in 79 conversations with student ambassadors and members of staff.

A total of 1,174 messages were exchanged on TAP during the Virtual Open Day. The top three conversation topics were course information, admissions, and careers.

Paul Starkey, Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions at the University of Bolton, said:“TAP was our immediate go-to when thinking about how to take our open day online, and quickly. 

“We didn’t want to let visitors down by completely cancelling so we tried to replicate the opportunity to talk to our staff as closely as possible. 

“We were already using TAP for engagement with current students so this was an easy fit for us. Staff found the platform extremely easy to use. We are looking to take the platform even further.”

TAP has recently enjoyed a rapid expansion in Australia, and is used by some of the country’s most prestigious and oldest universities including the University of Adelaide, RMIT University, University of Canberra, and the University of Newcastle.  

In the UK, it is used by scores of universities. Among them are a number of colleges at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School and the University of Sheffield.

According to research conducted by the pioneering digital platform, partner universities using the system have seen a dramatic increase in the number of international students accepting offers of study after engaging with a student ambassador online.

It has proven to be particularly successful for universities which have high overseas student intakes - and in recent weeks has become an invaluable tool as Covid 19 has gripped the world.

Said Nik: "We have seen a remarkable 28% increase in traffic through the platform since the lockdown began. Universities are scrambling to flip to remote recruitment solutions and we are thrilled to be supporting our partners with innovative proxies for their traditional recruitment methods like this open day."