AN expert in higher education recruitment claims a move towards innovative new technology could help universities to save millions of pounds in traditional marketing spends.
The Office for Students recently warned that institutions must be 'realistic' about future income as the sector is consumed by competition to fill courses.
It was followed by news that universities nationally are parting with large sums for both digital and public space advertising campaigns.
But Nik Higgins, co-founder of world-leading education tech firm The Access Platform, said universities willing to mobilise innovative new systems could maximise the efficiency of their recruitment efforts while reducing overall costs.
"Since the government lifted the cap on undergraduate places, competition for students has become increasingly fierce,” he said.
"It is understandable that universities are launching aggressive ad and marketing campaigns in a bid to meet ambitious financial targets.
"But the technology to make their recruitment efforts hyper-efficient already exists.
"Attracting more students by using innovative marketing methods has to be the way forward, particularly as budgets across the sector continue to tighten."
Figures published by independent regulator the Office for Students revealed the sector's income was £33 billion in 2017/18 - a 7.4 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
But it found the number of borrowers reporting a deficit went up from 40 in 2016/17 to 47 last year.
The body described higher education providers as being in 'reasonable financial shape'. But it urged universities to be wary of relying on 'over-ambitious' recruitment targets going forward after its analysis found not every university would be able to recruit the number of students they hoped to in the medium term.
More than 20 universities across the UK are already using TAP’s cutting edge recruitment tool to re-shape the way they communicate with prospective students.
The digital platform allows those considering specific universities to interact with the existing student body through peer-to-peer conversations and user generated content.
Nik said: “We know prospective students are 72% per cent more likely to apply to universities after an interaction with them through our platform, and that our university partners are seeing a return of up to 100 times their investment in TAP’s technology.
“With the number of 18-year-olds in the population falling between now and 2022, it is essential universities adopt new platforms to boost their ability to recruit in the numbers they need.”