Experience tops reputation when attracting university students


11 July 2013

Findings from two recent Capita surveys have revealed that an overwhelming 61% of university staff believe that the student experience is the most important factor when attracting students. Only 30% of respondents indicated academic reputation as the key driver with just 9% putting their money on the importance of competitive fees.

Mark Harvey, UK Sales Manager from Capita’s further and higher education business, said: “The evidence is stacking up that higher fees are making students very selective about where they choose to study. This is changing the game for universities.

“Student experience is key in giving students what they want. It is relevant not only when a student is at the university, but before and after too. The whole process of enrolment should be as smooth as possible to give the right impression as should their dealings with the university after they graduate. The long term nature of student loans for fees means that a university can effectively have a relationship with a student that lasts 20 years. Knowing how to deal with this efficiently is a key evolutionary step that needs to be taken.”

The findings from the surveys carried out at the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) conference in Liverpool in March 2013 and at the Student Record Officers Conference (SROC) in Sheffield in April also investigated how universities were introducing new technologies to improve the student experience.

The results showed how popular mobile apps had become in campuses. Having a campus map (55%), having timetables (53%) and keeping students up-to-date with news (52%) were the most common app features adopted by tech savvy higher education institutions.

Mark Harvey, feels there is further universities can go through: “The rapid rise in smartphone and tablet ownership inevitably means that the university campus will become more virtual. Students are already paying their accommodation fees and accessing resources and library records on their tablets and mobile phones.

“But there is more that can be done. Higher fees and more demanding students mean universities are increasingly striving to better engage with their students and move to more collaborative relationships with them. Mobile apps can help with this in ways that universities might not have thought of.  In the survey, only 28% of respondents planned to use their app for surveys, yet apps are a cost effective way of gathering students’ views on the important issues that matter to them.”

The survey also asked respondents to rate their biggest IT priority in the next two years; 22% of respondents said the delivery of business intelligence, 21% said developing student-facing online technology and 14% said investment in student-facing mobile technology. However, the need to keep control of budgets was made clear – 17% flagged up cutting systems and maintenance costs, and driving efficiency savings as a key priority.

Forty six managers from UK universities responded to the UCISA and SROC surveys. Capita’s further and higher education business supplies the UNIT-e student record management system as well as solutions for delivering mobile technology, efficient document management, library systems and payment solutions.