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How personalised communication at scale improved Hull’s enrolment journey

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We like to think the service we provide our partners is captured perfectly in this remark from the University of Hull’s Head of Global Student Recruitment.

For the past four years, that’s exactly what we’ve been aiming to do for Hull as we support the institution with its pre-applicant enquiries and offer conversion for international, EU and home students.

While EU and home cohorts have certainly not been without their challenges over the past few years, it’s international students who have undoubtedly been most rocked by the turbulence of the market in recent years. Despite this, in 2021, we managed to increase Hull’s international student conversion from offer to enrolment by over 330%.

And, while conversion is of course the ultimate goal, there have been a number of smaller milestones along the way that have helped drive this meteoric rise in enrolments.

Communication at scale and by preference

The sheer volume of communications required to successfully engage, reassure, and address queries from would-be students is one of the “headaches” we took away for Hull.

In 2021, we managed relationships with 16,500 future Hull students. This meant over 345,700 communications with future students at an average of over 1,300 per working day.

Students naturally looked to Hull for validation and reassurance throughout the course of such an uncertain year. As a result, Hull’s international recruitment team saw inbound enquiries more than double in 2021, growing to over 38,000 inbound communications.

We discovered that students preferred instant chat as a way to get an immediate response to a variety of questions they had. Over the course of 2021, WhatsApp usage increased by 331%! We recorded 8,914 separate instances of instant chat conversation.

That insight into student preferences and behaviours is incredibly insightful to universities like Hull, especially as they work to recover from the pandemic. Our research indicates that the 8,914 live chat conversations held by prospective students led to a 50% higher conversion rate from offer to enrolment.

Armed with that knowledge, adding WeChat into the mix of Hull’s instant messaging toolkit for the first time was a top priority for us both. As the most popular messaging tool in China – a key international market for Hull – introducing WeChat enabled the institution to engage more effectively with this cohort of prospective students.

We enhanced Hull’s interactive communication channels further still by building up a programme of webinars, in direct response to the decline of in-person recruitment and pre-departure events in which students would typically participate. In 2021, we delivered 42 webinars for Hull to over 2,000 international students – with the Head of Global Student Recruitment acknowledging that there was “no way we could have hosted them ourselves”.

The most popular webinars were the general pre-departure and visa process support sessions, indicating that students were eager to receive that information in a more interactive format.

“UniQuest are so vital to what we do, everything they do makes a huge difference… it’s a consistently high level of service. For me, the biggest plus is that they feel like part of the team. We have a really collaborative relationship with them and through the daily contact we maintain it feels like you’re working with a close colleague – not an out-of-house organisation.”

Dominic Greenfield
Head of Global Student Recruitment, University of Hull

A seamless service

Our collaborative work with which provides Hull with lead-generation services, means that together we are providing an end-to-end funnel for engaging and converting students.

As part of the Keystone group, we truly understand how they operate and are able to seamlessly collaborate to deliver better results for our partners.

While Keystone delivers leads for the international team at Hull, we then manage these leads as enquiries, enabling us to engage with a wider pool of prospective students.

Crucially, we know that conversion increases where an individual has had some
correspondence with the university prior to applying.

The collaborative approach with Keystone enables us to initiate that, helping Hull to reduce the amount of “stealth” applications they receive – that is, applicants who have no prior contact with the university before applying.

What next?

The demand across major markets such as Nigeria and India continues to grow, and helping Hull continue to manage that will be a key part of our partnership.

In 2022, we’ve helped Hull recruit over 2,500 international students across both undergraduate and postgraduate levels – and we’ll be working in partnership to drive increased growth year-on-year.

2022 has been a year of global instability, and it looks as though the picture will remain largely the same over at least the next year. We’re witnessing inflation levels unseen for decades, huge increases in the cost of living and conflict in Europe. All of these factors contribute towards nervousness from international students to go and study overseas. Our work with Hull has never been more important for offering reassurance, signposting to support, and helping with the restoration of student confidence.

Continuing to work in partnership with Keystone, we’ll be initiating early interactions with pre-applicants in a bid to reduce the number of stealth applicants at Hull further still.

Contact us to find out how UniQuest can help you with applicant to enrolment support