10 student recruitment strategies for your higher education institution

Posted by Charlotte Boaden on April 26, 2022

In a post-pandemic world, student expectations for the higher education experience have evolved. While some may have discovered a penchant for online learning, others may be looking for increased mental health support as part of the process, and so on. As such, institutions now recognise that student recruitment strategies require fine-tuning and realignment to stay relevant and effective, particularly as their provisions have also transformed.  

The most impactful student recruitment strategies will ensure your institution engages prospective students with the right message at the right time. This is vital to both student satisfaction and eventual outcomes.  Good student recruitment strategies identify and react to changing trends, but they also naturally rely on strong foundations such as internal processes and administrative systems. Inefficient processes often lead to inefficient campaigns, so the challenge lies in both refining background processes before turning your attention to relevant campaigns and impactful messages.

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When in a higher education setting, institutions face unique challenges that require equally unique strategies and solutions. Likewise, international student recruitment strategies must consider global trends and changing landscapes. In this blog, Tribal explores specific recruitment strategies for universities and international student recruitment. 


University student recruitment strategies 

The university student experience has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with an increase in remote learning and a drop in campus-based experiences. Isolation and mental health have been major issues due to lockdowns and quarantines over the last few years. Amid these factors, as well as growing concerns around university fees amid the cost-of-living crisis, prospective students are forced to consider the return on investment in their education more than ever. 

University student recruitment strategies need to refocus and realign with changing student priorities. Student values have evolved and shifted, and so too should recruitment strategies. This means a strong focus on safeguarding mental health, campus support, and employability after the degree is completed. A post-pandemic world also presents the opportunity to champion the revival and renewal of the student experience after so much change. 

5 key elements to include in your university student recruitment strategies: 

  1. Championing the university brand
  2. Focusing on employability and the value of the degree
  3. Utilising alumni case studies and student ambassadors
  4. Providing student mental health support
  5. Establishing clear and compliant communication  


Championing the university brand 

University student recruitment is an incredibly competitive area, so your institution must have a clear brand and presence. Analyse enrolment statistics and student experience surveys to understand the type of student that is attracted to your organisation and what they value. Use this information to refresh and inform your core values and brand messages to reinforce the kind of experience offered by the university. After all, the reasons provided by existing students will offer a valuable insight into why new students might make their choice.  


Focusing on employability and the value of the degree 

University students are increasingly scrutinising the outcomes of their time on their course, and prospective students are more aware than ever of fees. University student recruitment strategies should illustrate the added value of their education journey and the student experience provided. This should include employability, real-world skills, and peer-to-peer and external connections. 


Utilising alumni case studies and student ambassadors 

Maintaining a network of alumni ensures a valuable source of materials and resources for recruitment campaigns. Prospective students can be shown real-world examples and case studies of the value of their qualifications. For this reason, inviting alumni ambassadors to speak at events and school visits are good methods for engaging prospective students. 

Creating current student ambassadors is equally important for any university student recruitment strategy. Prospective students can access peer-to-peer information and guidance directly from these ambassadors, gaining an understanding of the reality of the student experience first-hand. 


Providing student mental health support 

Universities are increasingly focused on improving support and services to safeguard student mental health. In a recent survey published via FE Week, over 80% of university leaders stated that mental health and wellbeing were an essential strategic focus for 2022.  

With Tribal’s International Student Barometer finding that student happiness has dropped since 2018, UCAS estimates that over 70,000 students may enter Higher Education every year with a mental health condition. As such, research indicates that one in five students research support that is specifically tailored to an existing mental health condition before they apply for a university placement, and more than one in four look at the general mental health and wellbeing provision before making their final decision. Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds advises that “asking for help with your mental health needs to feel as simple as saying you’re trying to find the right book in the library.”  Therefore, access to support and services should be a key part of any university student recruitment strategy or campaign if they wish to attract and retain future talent.  


Establishing clear and compliant communication 

Communication is key throughout the university student recruitment process, as slow responses can hamper prospective student interest. In many cases the processes behind recruitment and enrolment are unsystematic, making it difficult to provide clear messaging along the entire student recruitment process.  

A student recruitment CRM is a clever tool to streamline and safeguard communications throughout the recruitment journey. It’s also a valuable way of tracking University student recruitment performance. Durham University transformed its student recruitment strategy by utilising Tribal’s student CRM platform, automating and streamlining many elements of its communication and enrolment processes.  

Once enrolled and during the recruitment process, a tool like Tribal Engage provides a platform for secure cross-campus communication, enabling collaboration and communication between the entire campus ecosystem, engaging students, staff, departments and businesses. 


International student recruitment strategies 

The pandemic has also affected international students immensely, with the closure of borders and restrictions on international travel, impacting the overall landscape of this market. For example, the reaction to remote delivery of courses has emphasised the value of in-country and on-campus study for international students. However, it has also highlighted an emerging market segment seeking remote home-country or hybrid-based experiences.  

Improved international student recruitment strategies are important in 2022, as international students return to global study. Of the thousands of international prospective students surveyed by New Horizons research by IDP Connect, 71% of respondents were intending to start studying in 2022. International student recruitment is incredibly competitive, with a global market of competing institutions.  

5 key considerations for international student recruitment strategies include: 

  1. Emphasising employability and future careers
  2. Promoting the student experience 
  3. Refining and improving the institution’s website
  4. Exploring new and emerging market segments
  5. Centralising campaign management 


Emphasising employability and future careers 

The impact on future careers has now become the number one consideration for international students when selecting a university. Tribal’s 2021 Global Student Experience report found that future career impact was top (96%) for international student respondents, beating even institution reputation (93%) as the main driving force behind their decision-making. International student recruitment strategies should take this into account when shaping international campaigns. The value that the university provides students for future careers and employability should be a major focus. 


Promoting the student experience 

The on-campus and remote student experience should be explored and celebrated in any international student recruitment strategy. It provides an opportunity to engage students across all cultures and exploring the host university’s culture and history, for example, can be a valuable focus for your campaigns. 

Likewise, care should be taken to promote a positive student experience within remote delivery settings too. The use of international alumni case studies and student ambassadors are popular ways to promote student experience within campaigns. Tribal’s 2021 Global Student Experience report found a drop in satisfaction when making friends with students from other countries (from 87% in 2019 to 78% in 2020), so both social and professional connections should be promoted and encouraged. 


Refining and improving the institution’s website

Tribal’s 2021 Global Student Experience report found that the university’s website (45%) was a key influencer in the decision-making process. This beats both an education agent’s influence (33%) and even university league tables (32%). Therefore, any international student recruitment strategy should consider the university’s website and online experience, ensuring key messages and resources are easily accessible throughout.  

You may also consider integrating a CRM that will help turn prospects into students. This should allow you to attract, track and recruit students effectively with helpful features - including email automation following the completion of online forms - helping to remove the time-consuming, manual element of your student recruitment strategy. It will also ensure that any student queries receive a prompt response, helping to maintain ongoing communication with your prospects. 


Exploring new and emerging market segments 

New Horizons research by IDP Connect found that the majority (81%) of international student respondents were seeking campus-based overseas study. However, an emerging segment of prospective students was considering either a hybrid approach or entirely home country-based tuition. Around 18% of respondents were considering a hybrid course delivery, split between their home countries and campus-based teaching overseas. 10% of respondents were considering either remote study or studying at a partner campus in their home country.  

These emerging market segments broaden the potential international student base. There’s a need for universities to fine-tune international student recruitment strategies in line with these new delivery options. 


Centralising campaign management

End-to-end international student recruitment campaigns can be incredibly complex, especially as they span multiple channels, countries, and settings. A student-focused CRM can help centralise these campaigns, providing better insight and measurement of recruitment activities. A student marketing and recruitment CRM tool will also allow you to combine the entire student lifecycle, from application and enrolment to graduation and beyond.  

Complex international student journeys which may include partner campuses or remote delivery, can also be easily combined and tracked. This also allows international student recruitment strategies to be considered as part of a wider institution strategy. 


How Tribal can help with your student recruitment?

From initial engagement to recruitment, Tribal’s Student Marketing and Recruitment solution revolutionises the student recruitment process. Monitor and measure return on investment, plan, and deliver campaigns, and gain in-depth insights across every platform. 

With detailed audience segmentation and seamless automation, unify your marketing and recruitment with Tribal. 


Find out about Tribal's Student Marketing & Recruitment Solution 



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