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The UK Support Package for Universites & Student Recruitment

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As UK support package for international students opt to stay home (58% are now changing study plans, according to the latest research from QS), and even domestic students consider deferring their study, UK universities are preparing to lose £2.5 billion in tuition fees next year.

There have been widespread calls for the government to put in place measures to support universities. It is important, not just for supporting jobs, but also because tuition fee income supports vital research carried out by universities.

At midnight last night, those UK support package measures were announced. They include:

  • The return of student number controls.
  • UCAS will launch a personalised Clearing process.
  • Universities are eligible for existing financial support schemes, and will receive an additional £100m in research funding.
  • Tuition fees payments will be brought forward for universities, to help cash flow.
  • The International Education Strategy will be reviewed in autumn, with a graduate visa route.
  • Universities may be asked to restructure, in line with recommendations from the Augar Review.

But what does all of this mean for Student Recruitment and Admissions?

Measures to curtail aggressive recruitment

Measures have been put in place from the Office for Students that will curtain aggressive recruitment practices – such as pressure selling tactics. Right now, it is important for student recruitment techniques to prioritise supporting students to find the university that is right for them through transparent communication and information.

The ‘aggressive marketing techniques’ that the Office for Students have banned include making misleading statements about other universities or converting conditional offers to unconditional offers across the board.

Universities should be, as many are, focused on being as transparent and open with students as possible right now. However, any new regulation risks taking autonomy away from the admissions process – and some broad strokes may even rule out any sort of competitive behaviour – so so we hope to see more clarity from the OfS soon.

The return of student number caps for UK support package

Each university will face limits on the number of UK and EU undergraduates it can admit for the academic year starting in September 2020.

Providers will be able to recruit full-time, domestic students up to 5% above their forecasts in the next academic year. Those caps will only be in place for the next academic year.

The board of Universities UK have backed the proposals, and in these difficult times it is certainly important for universities to ensure they recruit a manageable cohort, and that protections are put in place to prevent other universities from being drastically under-filled.

However, as has been pointed out, it is very important that this cap does not disproportionately impact disadvantaged students, and we hope to see more information on how students will be supported to ensure as many as possible can still get a place at their first choice university.

A new look Clearing for The UK support package

“Clearing Plus” will be unveiled by UCAS this summer, matching prospective students with a personalised list of relevant courses with vacancies.

The scheme moves the Clearing process online even further, and the style of matching students to courses will be hoped to manage an even spread of students across the country’s universities.

It’s hard to anticipate exactly what will happen come Results Day and Clearing. A record number of students used the service last year – but there are mixed opinions on how domestic students in the UK might respond to the pandemic when it comes to 2020 enrolment.

What we will be looking out for is detail on how those ‘matches’ are generated, as the service will surely have a significant impact on student choices.

An appealing study destination

While international student recruitment is incredibly difficult right now, it seems plans are being put in place to ensure the UK remains an attractive study destination after travel restrictions are lifted.

Along with the impact of Brexit, which QS recently revealed had impacted 11% of international students’ decision about studying in the UK, the new measures and graduate visa route should support international recruiters to attract students from across the world to study in the UK – when borders are back open.

A student-first mentality

Year 13 students already face concern over their university places since their grades will be determined by a teaching assessment rather than exams. The new caps could mean that many miss out on their first choice university or – depending on the number of applicants that choose to enrol in September – even a place in university altogether.

This new information will likely cause them increased concern – which is why it is more important than ever that they are supported with relevant and timely information.

We are continuing to see increased uptake of our range of products to help universities connect with their prospective students. There has been a 91.35% increase in the number of students signing up to chat with a university over April, and the number of messages sent on our virtual events platform has risen by 1,056% from February to March.

Earlier this year, we also introduced staff profiles – and the number of these rose by 330% in April. This uptake shows how hard universities are working to increase their outreach activity and ensure students remain informed and connected.

Unibuddy co-founder and CEO, Diego Fanara, said: “Universities have an important function for society – contributing billions to the economy, as well as vital research and education for an increasing number of young people each year.

“We are pleased to see the government act to support our universities – however, we’re conscious of the uphill battle they still face to retain and deliver education to their 2020 cohort. We hope to support them and help them to stay connected with their students in every way we can.”

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