5 Takeaways From the Student Panel at Our 2023 Autumn Marketing Conference
Our student panel was back by popular demand at our most recent Marketing Conference in London this past September. It brought together students from every stage of the postgraduate journey, from an undecided undergraduate to a final year PhD researcher, to share experiences and insights that could help inform your recruitment strategies.
Here are a few things we learned!
#1 Funding considerations remain top-of-mind
No big surprises here – funding is often the factor that clinches the deal when it comes to prospective postgraduates making their final decision. This is particularly true for international students, and for those progressing from undergraduate to postgraduate study at the same university.
One panellist was a Masters student who, while she had briefly considered others, was ultimately won over by the £1.5k progression award offered for former undergraduates by her current university. Alumni discounts and other such incentives are easy wins in the world of postgraduate recruitment and may dissuade students from looking elsewhere in the first place!
The same is true for international students, for whom postgraduate study in the UK is often not an option without financial support. One panellist was the recipient of a Commonwealth scholarship, which is what had made her PhD possible.
Whether you’re advertising your own scholarships and bursaries or explaining what’s available externally, make sure the funding options for each course are as prominent and easy to navigate as possible! Which brings us on to our next point…
#2 User experience on university websites should be a priority
For many of our panellists, it wasn’t just what funding was on offer that attracted them to their university of choice, but how well this funding was explained. It’s crucial to be transparent about what will and will not be covered, and how students will be expected to cover additional costs.
This also goes for other aspects of your courses, including often-overlooked details such as timetables and reading lists. Several panellists commented on the usefulness of having all the information about a course consolidated onto one page, without the need to navigate an overly complicated web of hyperlinks! This all-in-one approach makes it easier for students to compare between universities.
#3 Prospective students have mixed feelings about using AI in their postgraduate search
When asked whether they would be happy to have their questions answered by a chatbot, panellists’ reactions ranged from very negative to (tentatively!) receptive. One panellist was extremely clear about her preference for talking to a real person and her dislike of AI-generated answers. Another acknowledged that chatbots can be useful for accessing quick information, but that he would still be concerned about its reliability.
While AI can be a useful timesaver and will likely play a bigger role in recruitment moving forward, it’s important to avoid over-reliance on AI tools. Make sure students are always given the option of speaking to a person!
#4 Making more of an effort to target current undergraduates can be an easy win
Our undergraduate panellist, who is currently deciding whether to apply for a Masters, mentioned that she had not received much communication from her university on postgraduate study – in fact, she reported receiving more information from Masters students she had met in campus accommodation than from the university itself!
Undergraduates are often looking for information on Masters and PhD courses, but work and internship opportunities can often receive more of the airtime. A little more outreach could be the thing that persuades them to stay on at your institution.
#5 It’s important to stay in touch throughout the application process
All our panellists emphasised the importance of close communication and support during and after their application.
Not only did they find regular emails informative, but, particularly for international students, their warm and welcoming tone was integral to helping them feel excited to start their degrees.
Out of our six panellists, only one reported not reading emails from their university as they arrived – and he admitted to wishing he’d read them sooner once he got round to dealing with the backlog, since they had been full of such helpful advice! So while there’s a delicate balance to strike between regular contact and unwelcome spamming, reliably keeping in touch with students can go a long way.
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