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Q&A: Dave Parrott, Director of Admissions Services, on our new locum service

Another challenging admissions cycle ahead?

For anyone who has worked within a university admissions team, the challenge of addressing short-term resource needs will be a painfully familiar one. Enter our new admissions locum service… designed to tackle those issues head on.

Following its launch, we caught up with our Director of Admissions Services, Dave Parrott, to discuss how our new service is helping to address a uniquely challenging problem in the sector!

Dave, can you start by talking us through what the service actually offers?

In a nutshell, this is about providing admissions teams with the right expertise for their short-term resource needs, exactly when they need it. We’re offering up experienced admissions practitioners on-loan who can very quickly slot into your team on a fixed-term basis and hit the ground running.

It’s a model we see in other sectors – think the NHS staff bank, for example – but it’s the first time this approach has been applied to the higher education sector.

What need is this fulfilling?

Admissions as a university business function is really complicated, and this has historically made it incredibly difficult to address short-term staffing requirements.

What was once an administrative function has now become a fully-fledged professional service, with a unique skillset and knowledge base. It demands a high degree of compliance, with both external regulatory frameworks and internal policy frameworks to contend with. Alongside this, there’s also a considerable amount of technical expertise required, with universities often using specific systems which can be varied and complex.

All of this means that it takes time to become a fully competent admissions professional – typically about 12-18 months. So, what do you do if you only need someone for three to five months?

Until now, universities have normally had to resort to recruiting via a temp agency. But because there’s so much to learn, if you bring in a temp with no or minimal experience, all you’re really doing is taking someone out of your team to “train” them. It’s a high-cost model offering low return on investment.

And if you don’t have need for resource for a full 12 months, you’re not going to take on additional expenditure in your staff budget just to manage a few months that might be challenging.

This is where our service comes in. It offers a viable alternative to the traditional agency model, where universities know they will get an experienced professional.

Admissions is high-stakes, and universities don’t want to get it wrong in the current environment, where there’s intense competition coupled with extremely high expectations from prospective students.

How do you see the service being utilised?

There could be any number of reasons why admissions teams might want to utilise our locum service, from covering maternity leave of staff absences to helping to get through cyclical pinch points.

The nature of admissions means that workload can shift quite quickly. There are certain points in the cycle – for example, nearing the enrolment period where teams have so many overlapping priorities, and it’s at that point that the applicant experience can unfortunately be compromised. Admissions teams might just need an extra pair of hands for those intensely busy periods.

They’d simply say how many people they need and for how long, and then we would best match the skills of our locum staff with their needs. And the impact and benefit would become greater and greater the more they use the locum service. For example, if we’ve deployed locum staff to a university previously, we’d look to redeploy them for repeat service users so they would already be familiar with the university’s processes, systems and team.

Our team is entirely UK-based and would work remotely.

How can you guarantee quality?

Our team of 20+ admissions practitioners has a combined experience of working at 40 UK universities and with 20 different central record systems/admissions solutions, so we can guarantee that nothing will be ‘alien’. Individually, each practitioner has a minimum of two years’ experience working in an admissions role.

They’re all proficient in key admissions functions, including: qualifications assessment, grade alignment, entry criteria, regulatory compliance, fee structures, background checks, age specifications, GDPR compliance, student route and UKVI regulations, and cultural nuances.

As an example of the team’s impact… we recently deployed six of our admissions officers to a UniQuest university partner, and the result was a massive 430% year-on-year increase in applicants receiving a decision within two weeks of the UCAS Equal Consideration Deadline. Overall, turn-around time for applicant decisions was reduced from 11 weeks to two. This really shows the impact and added value that our team can generate in a short space of time.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the admissions locum service, we’d love to chat! Get in touch with us on