How University of Glasgow attracts and uses postgraduate Unibuddy ambassadors
The University of Glasgow is a top Russell Group University and University of the Year for 2020 (THE Awards). Home to the infamous Team UofG, the university has a long-standing belief in the power of its campus community to attract new students to its cause: to bring a community of world-changers together.
“67% of our PG cohort is international,” said Recruitment Marketing Manager Ann Wilber, “This means they likely won’t step foot in Glasgow, attend an open day and experience the tried and tested methods of traditional higher ed marketing when considering the University.”
It’s a real challenge. Generally, universities know that if a student attends an open day, they have on average a 30% chance of conversion. But how do you create opportunities for that kind of connection when your prospective student lives thousands of miles overseas?
“It’s the nitty-gritty stuff that adds the value,” said Wilber, “the stuff that’s pretty much impossible to share on our website. It’s not the top 10 reasons for PG students to study in Glasgow, course content or high rankings—it’s answers to questions like: ‘Will I fit in on campus?’; ‘How many hours do you spend in lectures vs seminars and labs each week?’; ‘What are my career options?’ Postgraduates have very specific and specialised questions.
We needed a tool where students could ask these questions and get quick answers that they could trust. Something that could address anxieties and remove barriers to application.”
“We’ve rolled out Unibuddy to almost all of our subject areas and have hundreds of students on the platform. Prospective students love it. We’re now just shy of hitting one hundred thousand messages. How would those conversations happen without the channel?
For me, it’s about amplifying the human voice of our university and, to that end, the whole programme is voluntary. We get the best students that way. It’s not uncommon to see conversations like ‘Hey, I’m not paid to say this so you know I’m being true!’ which gives our programme an extra layer of authenticity. International postgrads especially need this—so they can find out all the information not covered on the website as it’s harder for them to visit campus, particularly at the moment. ”
Wilber is clearly passionate about the project. When asked about how she keeps so many students motivated to answer questions, she shares:
“I don’t have to run ads to get new students on board. Our Academic Schools are bought in, so much so that they offer extra credit for students becoming a Unibuddy ambassador—it’s been amazing for getting students who give it their all.
Plus, I work hard to make sure all our ambassadors get extra value from volunteering and stay motivated. With PGT’s these students are only here for a year and they have a busy schedule with dissertations taking up a huge chunk of their time towards the end of their studies.
So I’ve worked hard to design incentives so like a certificate of completion and also ensure that their contribution appears on their Higher Education Achievement Records (HEAR). Students like to attach the Certificate of Completion to their LinkedIn profile so it’s a good motivator to keep volunteering with us.”
“I was already a fan of Unibuddy, but during the pandemic it really came into its own,” says Ann, “Our students produced blog content around mental health, how to handle anxieties and get through lockdown. It was some of our highest performing content in student comms and for me it became clear how important it was to encourage student blogs. The key was to ensure our ambassadors were writing about what was interesting and of value to their peers at that specific time.”
This plays out on social media too. Industry-wide, user generated content for social channels tends to perform six hundred times better than content produced by the brand itself. When asked what her biggest surprise from using Unibuddy is, Wilber shared:
“Honestly, it has to be how lovely and helpful students can be. Think about it: They are usually young, keen and haven’t got immediate career commitments—they have a lot of time and love to give! They give great advice and enjoy helping their peers and I can see in the conversations taking place that they reassure students in the decision they are going to make and take away a lot of doubt or confusion. They genuinely want to help the person they are talking to by sharing their experience at the University of Glasgow.”
The university needed a tool that would allow students to ask questions and get quick answers that they could trust—something that could address anxieties and remove barriers to application.
Their students produced blog content around mental health, how to handle anxieties, and get through lockdown. It was some of their highest performing content in student comms.