23 March 2021
MENA: standing out from the crowd

Let’s reflect on the past 12 months. It’s now been a full year since the global lockdown that introduced us all to this new norm.

With all of the struggles that came with the pandemic, it’s important we also highlight how universities have adapted and changed for the better.

First, to remain competitive, universities need to invest in a robust digital presence and use new digital technologies. This helps maintain or increase key metrics such as lead generation, applications, and enrollment.

We all know how competitive the student recruitment market is and how much money, time, and resources go into attracting top talent. Unfortunately, we’ve seen what happens when you don’t adapt. Many institutions have struggled over the past 12 months and some have even had to shut down.

It was a delight to be joined by Ali Hamad, Director of Admissions and Registration at the American University in the Emirates, and Amanda Gregory, COO and Co-Founder at Univer, to discuss this topic in detail. Here are some key takeaways…

Social media is the new norm

Social media channels have shifted from a “nice to have” to a “core recruitment tool.”

In fact, a recent study by TargetX found that 58% of aspiring students use social media to research schools they’re considering. What they find can hold weight, too: 17% say these sources are extremely influential, while 61% say they are at least somewhat influenced by their social research.

This number is expected to grow as generations become more tech-savvy and spend more time online. Ali emphasized that traditionally, AUE used social media channels as a marketing tool or a channel to announce events whereas now, social media channels provide them with a much larger audience to engage and advertise to.

A strong social media presence helps keep your current students engaged, whether on or off-campus. Even before the pandemic, not all students lived on campus, yet these students were still eager to take part in the student life.

A key advantage of social media is that students from anywhere feel part of the university community. Thus, a strong social media presence will help you stand out from competitors and retain top talent.

The impact of the student voice

At Unibuddy, we speak about the “power of belonging” a lot. Students who feel connected, accepted, and valued by your institution during the admission journey are more likely to take the next step. As Amanda mentioned, peer-to-peer or word of mouth as a concept has always existed in MENA.

Traditionally, students ask for advice and decide where to study over dinner with family. The increased availability of information via the internet and social media means future students are expecting to seek peer advice from existing students.

Your current students are thus your biggest advocates and strongest marketing tool. Utilizing a peer-to-peer platform like Unibuddy can boost all aspects of the recruitment funnel and leverages peer-to-peer 365 days a year.

Tuition flexibility and additional help in MENA

Scholarships have always been a hot topic among students even pre-pandemic. Ali spoke on the need for universities to understand that admissions and revenue were not the only ones affected over the last 12 months.

Families have seen the impact as well. Many people have experienced job loss or taken significant pay cuts. Universities need to accommodate these families with further support. At AUE, they’ve initiated a COVID fund to help students who the pandemic has affected.

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