21 October 2020
4 things we learned at the Unibuddy Global Conference

Our largest ever event has come to an end. 1000 higher education leaders joined us across three stages for a virtual event like no other.

The whole thing was hosted on our brand new virtual events platform – so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet – and provided our network of university partners a unique opportunity to see it first. 

With 18 hours of sessions and over 80 experts, we learned a lot from the conference. Soon, you’ll be able to access all the recordings on-demand, as well as the resources from the sessions. 

Here are just four of the things we took away from our 2020 conference!

1 in 5 students don’t feel represented by university marketing 

Welcoming a diverse group of students must be a priority for universities – and creating the right environment from pre-enrollment all the way through the experience is essential. 

During our conference, we had sessions on diversity in marketing as well as facilitating a welcoming environment for indigenous students, non-traditional learners, and a diverse student body.  

You must make a concerted effort to make your marketing truly representative and diverse. In our session, we heard how that can even extend to amplifying the food options you have on campus: for example ensuring your students know that you can meet their dietary needs, so it’s one less thing to worry about. Small actions like that can have a big impact. 

And if you don’t make that concerted effort, you will be dragged. As our panelists discussed during the Diversity in Marketing session, young people are more socially aware and active than ever before and they are more than willing to vocally call out universities that have made mistakes. You should embrace that, and use it as an opportunity to course-correct and amplify the issue. 

International students won’t stay grounded for long 

We heard some fascinating data from Liz Shepherd and Patrick Hayes at Times Higher Ed. The message of the session is that international students won’t stay grounded for long. 

While border closures and concerns around the coronavirus make international study difficult right now, research by Times Higher Ed suggests it will bounce back and – in some cases – hasn’t been impacted at all. 39% of surveyed students said their plans to study abroad had been unaffected by COVID-19. 

Liz Shepherd noted that Canada is also emerging as a key destination for international students, as they work to make the country an appealing place to study and work. 

We also heard from Amanda Gregory at Univer. Students in the MENA region are active travelers, and according to Univer’s data, over 800,000 people travel to study outside of their country, with the UK as their number one destination. 

So with all these international students, how do you attract them to your university? We heard from Baiyun and Kevin from Arizona State University about how they embedded Unibuddy into their university website to attract and retain students throughout the funnel. 

Student ambassadors are key to the success of your student pipeline (QS) 

We were joined by 2 ambassadors from Goucher College and one from Erasmus School of Economics. What was clear was that – while there are big differences in the ambassador experience from country to country, some things remain the same: students want to help their peers, and they want to represent your university. 

And they’re doing it – whether they’re given a channel or not! Student vlogs are among the most viewed university content on YouTube, with applicants seeking an authentic look at university life from the people living it. 

Our partners – like Manchester University, University of South Australia, Arizona State University, and more – spoke about the importance of giving your students the platform to provide that support, and benefit from the content they create and the insights you garner for your marketing and recruitment. 

Higher Education is in the midst of a shift

We ran a session on how start-ups and universities can learn from one another, and Elliot Newstead – from Leicester University – summed it up: “I’ve seen more innovation in the Higher Education sector over the last few months than I have done in the previous 11 years of working within it”

We also heard from Vivienne Stern, director of UUK International, who talked about the enormous transformation higher education pedagogy will undergo, noting that the growth in blended learning is very likely here to stay. She also ended with a pertinent question: “what about the polar bears”: how does climate change fit into higher education plans? The digital-first models currently being explored will undoubtedly benefit the climate. 

During the conference, we unveiled our brand new virtual events platform. When we launch in the new year, our partners will be able to host large-scale virtual events using Unibuddy. Our new product gives you a customizable landing page, where you can showcase your current students, staff, and resources – such as web links, or downloadable content. It also becomes a home for multiple Unibuddy Live events, so you can host different rooms, or subject-specific events, all from one place.

It’s been designed with versatility in mind. So it’s perfect for an Open Day or Open House, but it’s also a perfect fit for all the other events you usually host throughout the year – whether as a virtual replacement, or an online complement. It’s really easy to set-up an event and requires no technical knowledge.

We also announced our partnership with Study in the USA. Together, we will launch an online platform that will highlight international students who are studying overseas – with the aim of giving reassurance and confidence to more students.  

15 colleges are on board – and the new platform aims to give international students the confidence they need to study in the USA. 

With over 40 years supporting international students coming to the U.S., Study in the USA is the leading educational guide for international students and sees over 7.9 million visits per year. 

A big thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday for our largest ever event – we hope you enjoyed it. 

Did you miss it? Soon, we’ll make all the recordings and handouts available so you can benefit from many more of the amazing insights!

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