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How Australian universities can stay connected with students during COVID-19

two students chatting

With travel increasingly limited, the impact of coronavirus on 2020 enrolment at Australian universities is yet to be felt – but what is clear is that universities must focus their efforts on a diverse range of international markets and domestic students.

How do you reach those students, particularly when campuses are closed and many students are feeling anxious about their future? Peer to peer interactions are essential. Student decision making is influenced in a powerful way by online conversations with peers.

In a report by Intead, students from all countries were influenced by peer to peer interactions. In Asia, 51% of students said chatting online with a student ambassador influenced their decision about whether to apply to a university. And in Africa and Europe, that number rose to 69% and 62%, respectively.

In Asia, as many students said Unibuddy was ‘very helpful’ for decision making as those that said their family and friends were very helpful.
In Africa, 57% of students found Unibuddy ‘very helpful’ compared to just 47% who said the same about their family and friends.
And in Europe, 58% of students found Unibuddy ‘very helpful’ for their decision making. Just 37% said their family and friends were a ‘very helpful’ resource.

Embedding peer-to-peer

The University of South Australia wanted to engage with prospects at every step of the application process – and they wanted to do it digitally.

As Carly Bell, Team Leader: International Admissions Conversion, says: “Students are moving towards chat, and for some of our markets this is a more comfortable platform than talking over the phone.”

Unibuddy was launched with around 20 existing ambassadors from the institution. As Carly explains: “It was easy for them to jump on board – they’re all young and very tech savvy. The conversations they are having are very similar to the conversations they have over the phone.”

3 months on from launching, UniSA’s diverse range of ambassadors have attracted hundreds of students from 36 different countries – interested in 100 different courses.

That Intead report found that 65% of students applied to the universities where they were able to chat with a student ambassador.

Even when they chatted after applying, respondents reported increased eagerness to attend, feeling welcomed and encouraged.

Virtual events

The continued COVID-19 outbreak has led to an increased number of universities turning to virtual enrolment events. In March, there was a 900% increase in the number of events hosted on our Unibuddy Live platform compared to the previous month. And more students than ever are signing up from across the world.

The aim of these events is to connect with your students and create a sense of belonging – providing them reassurance and guidance on their Higher Education journey. We know that is the priority for you right now, and staying connected is more important than ever.

Virtual events are also replacing the key conversion events in the calendar: Open Houses, Admitted Student Days, Applicant Visit Days. Why? Because when done well, they still deliver that experience – and offer even more that isn’t available offline: more depth and breadth of information, a truly personalised experience and a record of those important conversations.

Universities across the world are uncertain about the impact of the continued disruption brought by COVID19. But what is clear is that connecting with students, providing them with reassurance, guidance and consistent communication is essential. Through peer-to-peer interactions that boost confidence, and virtual events that create a sense of belonging – over 300 institutions around the world and top universities in Australia are mitigating the impact and staying connected with their students.

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