Durham University talks ‘Admissions Management’

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Founded in 1832 and ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide, Durham University has long been committed to excellence in all aspects of education and transmission of knowledge. In 2014 a strategic-level review of admissions recommended that the University should optimise its admissions processes to safeguard the recruitment of the most able and suitable candidates and enhance the quality of the applicant experience.

The result was a commitment to re-engineer its entire recruitment and admissions processes underpinned by a suitable CRM platform and work on this began in late summer 2015 with the appointment of Tribal Dynamics as its technical implementation partner.

Academic Registrar, Michael Gilmore sums up the challenge as follows: “Our strategic review clearly indicated that we needed to develop and adopt a new Target Operating Model (TOM) if we were to deliver on our objectives of:

  • Creating a framework to support student number growth and widening participation
  • Delivering an outstanding pre and post application experience
  • Creating a central team of professionals delivering an excellent and efficient service to stakeholders.”

A Phase 1 proof of concept exercise in the Business School was rapidly followed by further phases, which saw the deployment of Tribal Dynamics’ Student Recruitment Accelerator and the development of an Admissions Management Accelerator respectively. Key to admissions management, which has to-date been focused on post-graduate entry, was the development of an Applicant Portal via which post-graduate applicants and staff could interactively manage the whole admissions process. Student Recruitment was live by early 2018, with Admissions Management following in October the same year, and the results of this have been impressive.

“Our Postgraduate Applicant Portal aims to be a one-stop shop for applicants to support their journey from application to final accept.  This, in conjunction with the Application Management Accelerator and CRM functionality, has improved the self-service functionality we provide to our applicants and allowed us to target communications and conversion activity more effectively.  It is also providing us with valuable opportunities to enhance our management information and gain a greater understanding of our applicants and markets.”  Liz Dodds, Head of Admissions Services, Durham University.

The current phase of the Durham project has seen the development of an Agent Portal to support international recruitment via this channel and the deployment of the Tribal Dynamics Schools and Colleges Liaison Accelerator, which supports the whole recruitment process with feeder institutions. These both went live on schedule at the end of November 2019.

With four years’ work and four project phases complete, Michael Gilmore sums up the new TOM as follows: “What the team has achieved is fantastic, but it has been a challenging transition year! The benefits we are getting are:

  • SERVICE – consistent quality, improved turnaround, self-service multi-media capabilities
  • PROCESS – consistent data capture, proactive campaigns, increased automation, improved reporting
  • STAFFING –staff savings, academic time savings, increased morale & resilience.”



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