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Protecting the student experience in an overloaded admissions funnel

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2022 has been a remarkable year for the higher education sector, with universities across the UK witnessing a huge rise in the volume of applications. Analysing data from just a handful of our university partners shows that, right now, there are nearly two times as many offers in the pipeline than this time last year and a 60% increase in firm acceptances.

And the pipeline is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Applications are already flooding in for September 2023, while most admissions teams are still battling the bottlenecks for the January intake.

When confronted with such a high volume of applications to process, it’s understandable that admissions teams might struggle to maintain the high standard of student engagement to which they all aspire. Something has to give, and with the rise in applications bringing with it a rise in enquiries from prospective students, the overall applicant experience is increasingly becoming that ‘something’.

The implications of that could be costly. We know that students who have a good enquiry experience convert from offer to enrolment at twice the rate of others. We also know the extent to which a negative experience impacts the decision-making of prospective students. Our Enquiry Experience Tracker, conducted in partnership with Edified earlier this year, showed that a huge nine in 10 prospective students are likely to drop off if they have a negative experience after enquiring.

Late last year, we launched a new admissions service to help our university partners manage the strains caused by the huge influx in applications. In addition to reviewing applications and issuing offers, we can also manage inbound applicant enquiries in order to reduce the burden on admissions teams, providing exceptional service to prospective students.

In doing so, we hope to free up some of the finite resources that higher education institutions have. We’ve found that when we’re managing enquiry channels for our partners, admissions teams have more time to allocate where they see fit – allowing them to concentrate more on particular cohorts or issues.

To date, we have built a team of 50 admissions support staff (and growing), who all have experience within admissions teams at UK universities. The team is headed by Amy Yelf, bringing vital experience from her previous role as Deputy Head of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Sussex.

Whether it’s requesting updates on applications, asking questions about their course or deferral options, or – for international students – chasing up on CAS and visa documentation, there’s no shortage of enquiries from applicants. Our support staff are able to act as an extension of our partners’ teams, up to and including providing a real-time response to inbound calls and live chat messages.

For our existing admissions partners, we’re currently managing about 1,000 student interactions per day. Taking this load off university admission teams means they can focus on providing quicker turnarounds with applications – ultimately improving applicant experience itself, and therefore the likelihood of those students going on to enrol.

Demand for university places is undoubtedly a great thing! However, it needs to be met with adequate and robust support from admissions teams. The UK is one of the world’s most attractive study destinations for the quality of education, but this is only conditional upon the student experience – which must be managed carefully throughout the applicant process.

If any of the above issues are all too familiar to your admissions team, we’d like to help. We’d love to discuss how we can help alleviate the pressures you’re facing. Follow this link to learn more about what we offer.