Exploring creative ways to engage students online and meet your widening participation goals
All outreach professionals in higher education face the challenge of attracting a wealth of students from diverse and different backgrounds to their institution. Statistics on widening participation in higher education explore several key criteria, including gender, ethnicity, special educational needs and first language. For a successful and diverse institution, you should look to encourage a broad spectrum of students from all backgrounds. In one of our recent webinars, Creative ways to engage younger students online, our Customer Success Manager, Madalina Marinescu, explores how organisations are engaging with students earlier in their journey to help attract them to their institutions. Let’s explore what the speakers had to say and how they have used online resources to engage students and create a more inclusive process for a wider range of prospective students.
The Sutton Trust develops a “Lighter Touch” Approach
The Sutton Trust is an educational charity focusing on improving social mobility and levelling educational disadvantage. They have traditionally supported pupils through face-to-face programmes, but the development of Sutton Trust Online has allowed them to widen their reach and support many more students. Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Jonathan Tyndall, Senior Programmes Manager, explained that they had to turn away 10,000 students per year for face-to-face programmes, which led to the need for their online provision. The Coronavirus pandemic acted as a further catalyst as no in-person activities meant they needed to quickly pivot and offer their summer school programme through online channels.
The Ambassador Platform is one pillar of The Sutton Trust’s online provision. This program allows pupils to access student ambassadors with ease and get direct support from the people who know the most about life at university. Engaging with students online is not always easy. Still, The Sutton Trust utilise a range of interactive approaches from TAP Treasure Hunts that encourage pupils to fact-find across the platform to embedding QR codes to The Ambassador Platform in webinars and other media to drive visitors to the platform and show them what it can offer. When surveyed, 74% of students said The Sutton Trust Online influenced their choice of university. Getting your online offering right and delivering a high-value proposition can be crucial in helping students make that all-important decision.
GM Higher capitalises on national programmes to engage young students
School pupils and sixth-form students may have some understanding and plans for attending university or entering higher education but may not necessarily know where to find the information they need or how to access it. By utilising recognised national events, GM Higher was able to organise events specifically around the use of The Ambassador Platform to engage pupils and get them thinking about higher education. GM Higher is a collaborative network in Greater Manchester. The partnership is a part of the Uni Connect programme, which delivers a nationally coordinated approach to working with schools, universities, and colleges to help people access higher education.
Speaking on behalf of GM Higher, Marketing and Communications Manager Sarah Starkey explained how they utilised well-known events in the academic calendar to show students how useful The Ambassador Platform can be. Their events took place over National Careers Week 2021 and National Apprenticeship Week 2022 and engaged with schools and colleges to give their students access to and guidance through The Ambassador Platform, highlighting how useful it can be for their next educational move.
By providing tailored and individual support for schools and their pupils, GM Higher was able to attract significant interest and engagement on the platform, signing up many new members and connecting them with staff ambassadors who can advise about the ins and outs of student life at different universities. This added insight can be the difference between a student choosing the right institution for themselves as an individual or selecting it purely based on reputation.
Keble College, Oxford hosts Q&A session to answer student questions
The final speaker in our webinar was Dr Foteini Dimirouli, Outreach and Career Development Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. She plays a key role in the college’s commitment to diversifying its student cohort and targeting students from non-selective state schools, and widening participation.
Keble College has partnered with The Ambassador Platform since April 2020. The many conversations and student discussions allowed them to see clear areas where they could focus and provide added value and engagement for prospective students. They recognised students were consistently and thoroughly discussing the specificity of the interview process and took this as a springboard to hosting a live Q&A session focused on the interview process.
Through a Live Stream involving 11 student ambassadors and attracting 54 prospective student participants, it was possible to delve deeper into questions and provide potential students with the information necessary to make the most of their interview and feel more confident about the process.
Approximately 50% of prospective students interacting on The Ambassador Platform applied for a place at Oxford, and 25% of these were offered a place. Interestingly, ten people who attended the webinar were among this 25%. This indicates that those students who want to find out more will actively engage, and the opportunity to attend events can feed into further engagement.
Widen your reach with The Ambassador Platform
All universities and higher education institutes need to actively recruit and look for new and interesting ways to engage potential students. The Ambassador Platform lets you put your most valuable asset, your students, at the heart of your recruitment programme. It provides prospective students with a direct line to those already living the campus life and allows them to get a fully enriched and honest picture of your institution and what it offers. Providing this level of transparency and allowing your ambassadors to be your marketeers enables prospective students to get an authentic feel for your university. We partner with institutions around the world, connecting their ambassadors with prospective students. A well-designed online platform is a much more accessible and efficient way to attract a broader spectrum of potential students and can also tie in well with your in-person events and traditional marketing methods.