My week - 18 February - Martin Holmes gives an update on student recruitment

Marketing Director Martin Holmes writes about student recruitment, and explains some of the new activities and initiatives the University is introducing to support our performance in this area.

Martin Holmes

As with most weeks in the University, last week was full of contrast and variety. Student recruitment is never far from the top of my agenda and last week we were in the process of preparing for the individual student number planning meetings which are now taking place, in parallel with ensuring that we are doing all we can to support colleagues from across the University in maximising our recruitment performance for 2013 entry.

The student number planning meetings will be informed by an appreciation of the recruitment challenges we faced in 2012, which was the first year of the new undergraduate £9K fee. The outcome of this year’s recruitment cycle is, as yet, clearly uncertain and, whilst a huge amount of effort is ongoing across the University to support recruitment activity, we are all getting used to operating in a significantly more competitive environment.

I suspect that there is always a risk that we underestimate the need to continue to challenge and test the effectiveness of our existing recruitment activity and assess new ways of working. A good example of this has come from the Business School where we have tested a programme where Student Ambassadors are telephoning applicants to whom we have made offers to encourage them to register for post applicant events. Even in a School where applicant demand has traditionally been high and has a culture of being a ‘selecting school’, we have seen the benefits of trying new types of activity such as this, which have in turn proved to be so effective that the School has had to add another post applicant day to respond to demand. Students in the Business School have also produced their own ‘Life at Leeds’ publication which is a fantastic support for conversion activity and which really complements the School’s own marketing material.

Last year, like many of our peers in the sector, we experienced a drop in demand for postgraduate taught study. This year we have significantly increased the level of activity to support the promotion of postgraduate study (both taught and research), both within and well beyond Leeds, a highlight of which was the University’s first institutional postgraduate open day last week . We had 940 registrations (nearly double our target and three times the average attendance at peer events), of which a third were from Leeds. There has been much comment in the press recently regarding the fragility of the funding for postgraduate study and, as Michael reported recently, this is now actively being discussed between BIS and HEFCE. In the meantime, we're working hard to ensure we do all we can to support postgraduate recruitment among our own students here in Leeds, elsewhere in the UK and overseas. Whilst very early in the recruitment cycle for international postgraduate students, application levels are encouraging.

Institutional reputation remains one of the key influencing factors for students (both home and international) at all levels of study in their choice of institution. Many factors influence institutional reputation, some of which are easier to control than others. The University’s links with strategic partners has an important role to play and to that end I met with Alison Houston, the Executive in Marks and Spencer who has lead responsibility for the University’s partnership with the company, to discuss how we might most appropriately maximise the visibility of this relationship to help support our recruitment activity. There are some exciting student activities beginning to develop in a number of schools which I am keen to promote. The partnership will now actively support our student education and research ambitions, in addition to using the M&S archive as a platform for developing co-working in areas as diverse as leadership and development, governance and service delivery.

My week ended with meetings with both the Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Bank of England. As you might expect, both of these events confirmed the fragility of the regional economy and the uncertainty within both public and private sectors over the next 12 months. Encouragingly, however, both reaffirmed to me the pride that the business community has in the universities within the region and the belief that higher education in all its variety of forms is a critical enabler of economic recovery.


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