Maximising College Recruitment



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The value in researching why your student applicants didn’t enrol

Over the past few weeks college managers and marketing teams will have been heavily engaged in converting student applications to enrolments. Local school leavers and perhaps other young learners looking to switch courses and providers will have been of particular interest given that the vast majority of income for colleges in England comes through ESFA funding for 16-19 year olds.

However, as we know not everyone who applied, received an offer or even accepted a place, turn up for enrolment at the start of the new academic year. School leavers are encouraged to apply to several institutions, yet grades permitting they no doubt have their hearts and minds set on just one.

Research tells us there are a whole range of reasons why individuals pick one provider over another but unfortunately, there isn’t much anyone can do right now, once their decision has been made to convince the applicant ‘no shows’ to change their preferences and take up a place at your college.

However, follow up contact with this group provides an important opportunity for you to learn more about the influences and choices of post-16 students. This can pay dividends in terms of future recruitment as well as understanding how these students perceive your college and what attracted them to study at a local competitor.

Unless the individuals have opted out from being contacted for research purposes, your college already holds a wealth of information, including telephone numbers, email address, home postcode and courses applied for. This offers the chance to conduct some really targeted and effective research which can be linked back into future recruitment activity, application management and curriculum planning, enabling you to make beneficial changes where required.

What are the most important factors for post-16 learners choosing a provider?

In a recent research study of college applicants, RCU identified the most important factors for young people when selecting a school or college included quality of teaching, staff encouraging students to work hard and the offer of a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Interestingly enough however, our findings also showed that when asked to rate these factors for a selected group of colleges the same respondents had far less an opinion on whether these were actually good or bad. In short, they just didn’t know whether teaching was good or whether staff supported students to work hard. Perhaps the opportunity here is to think about the messages your college sends out to local residents and potential students and ensure that these key selling points are communicated effectively.

Having a good choice in courses and subjects also scored very highly in this research so ensuring your college’s curriculum planning and course offer is well informed and meets the desires of local students and employers is also a key element of successfully maximising future learner numbers.

My advice – don’t wait too long before getting back in touch with your applicant ‘no shows’ so that you can develop a stronger understanding of their decision-making process while it’s still fresh in their minds. This will give you a real advantage ahead of next year’s recruitment drive.

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