Last Thursday, students up and down the country were nervously awaiting their A Level results, and subsequently finding out whether or not they had been accepted into the universities of their choice.
However, it’s not just the students who were waiting. Universities across the country also faced an anxious wait to see whether they could fill up their courses in what has been described the toughest student recruitment season of all. This has resulted in some establishments resorting to testing new methods for their clearing process.
There are approximately 160 higher education institutions in Britain, and over the past few years, they have all experienced increases in applications from prospective students, with the exception of 2012 when fees were initially increased. However, this year has seen a sharp drop in applications, which can be attributed to a number of factors including the number of students taking A Levels and concerns from students over the outcome of Brexit.
Students who find that they haven’t got the required grades to be accepted into the universities they applied to usually attempt to go through the clearing process, where they will call up a number of universities in the hope of being accepted onto a course that has spaces available. These institutions usually have dedicated clearing hotlines in order to cope with the number of calls on results day.
Data from UCAS states that approximately 649,700 prospective undergraduates applied to universities by the June deadline, with this figure representing a 4% dip on last year. The number of overseas students from other EU countries saw a dip of 5%. However, applications from overseas students from nations outside the EU saw an increase of 2%.
This year, universities in fear of not filling up their quota are turning to different methods to attract these students as quickly as possible. For some universities, this method is contact via social media. The thought process behind this is that social media is a channel where messages are exchanged at a much quicker rate than being on hold on one of the hotlines, so institutions are looking at such platforms as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to reach students faster than their rivals.
De Montfort University, which is based in Leicester, turned to WhatsApp to make offers to students seeking a place through clearing, while Sheffield Hallam chose to use Facebook Messenger. Southampton Solent University decided to make offers through two social media channels in the form of Snapchat and Instagram, with Staffordshire University opting to make use of three platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
A manager at Southampton Solent University, Rebecca Hollington, stated that admin staff on the clearing team were encouraged to send messages with emojis and selfies to students they were accepting through the clearing process in order to relate to the digitally savvy young people who might be enrolling this autumn.
With a number of universities adopting social media as a way of contacting students about something so important, this demonstrates the enormity of social media within our day-to-day lives. Social media is particularly important to the younger generation, so it is no surprise that establishments are making themselves more contactable over social platforms.
This is further highlighted by De Montfort University’s content and social media manager, Paul Hindle, who said that clearing call centres have found that the number of enquiries coming in through social media sites such has Twitter has been increasing over the years, as people have turned to these forms of contact instead of calling their hotlines.