My week - 17 June 2013 - Martin Holmes writes about the importance of Open Days

Marketing Director Martin Holmes writes this weeks column, focussing on the importance of Open Days and applicant experience.

Martin Holmes

As always at this time of year, despite whatever is in my diary, my thoughts always seem to turn to the weather. Can the recent dry warm weather we have been enjoying last just a little longer? I fear not, as indeed the forecast for the week of our open days is quite mixed. However, despite this little climatological hiccup, I am confident that colleagues across the University will deliver another series of superb open days where we really help to bring to life ‘Why Leeds?’ to prospective students and their parents.

Leeds, along with all our peer institutions, is coming to terms with what is undoubtedly a much more challenging external environment. We need to be increasingly effective in helping to demonstrate to potential applicants what is distinctive about the Leeds experience and why Leeds may be the right choice for them. In a world where applicants are bombarded with views and information from a variety of sources (both formal such as ‘go compare’ websites and informal through social networks such as Student Room), the importance of attracting applicants on to campus is essential. It is only when applicants experience something of the warmth of the University’s community, the vibrancy of student life and the inspirational nature of the academic experience that we can really demonstrate what is so special about this institution. Nor should we underestimate the huge part that our Student Ambassadors play during our open days, providing invaluable sources of encouragement, advice and anecdotes, all of which are hugely beneficial to potential students. We are enormously grateful to them for taking part (more often than not in monsoon-type weather conditions!).

This year we have increased the number of open days, so three days this week will be spent talking to prospective applicants, parents and friends about life at Leeds. From a very selfish perspective this is a great excuse to get away from the 13th floor of the Ziff Building and actually help support professional and academic colleagues across the campus, helping to demonstrate what a fabulous place Leeds is to come, both to study and grow as a person. The additional open days (an extra one this Tuesday and another in September) are helping increase the opportunities for applicants to come to visit Leeds and we have seen a notable increase in the number of registrations as we provide more options for both weekday and weekend visits.

Away from the actual open days themselves, I will be working alongside my VCEG colleagues Viv Jones (Pro-Vice-Chancellor Student Education) and Roger Gair (University Secretary) to help take forward a key element of the overall Student Education Service implementation; the re-engineering of our admissions processes and the procurement of a CRM (customer relationship management) system to support an improved applicant experience. There is a need to ensure that we continue to improve the applicant experience for all cohorts of students and a key objective is to reduce the inefficiencies in our current (largely manual and paper based) processes, so that more time can be devoted to engaging with potential applicants. Examples would include increased opportunities for high-quality post-application events and more effective two-way dialogue with applicants across the admissions process. For our international applications, the post-acceptance period is a really important time when we need to increase the quality and effectiveness of this interaction.

So, whilst I suspect that this weekend I will spend rather more time monitoring the local weather forecast than usual, whatever happens, I know that next week we will all be doing everything we can to showcase our University in the very best way possible.

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