COVID-19 highlights need for recruitment automation
“Many HEIs were already struggling with fluctuating international enrolments due to unpredictable political and economic conditions”
UK universities face significant financial losses in international tuition fees as Covid-19 decimates prospective enrolments. However, automating recruitment processes mitigate the potential for economic ruin says Jeffrey Williams, co-founder at Enroly.com.
As global leaders in higher education, UK universities are heavily reliant on international tuition revenue, with the most important recruitment markets for the UK are China (120,385); India (26,685); the United States (20,120); Hong Kong (16,135), and Malaysia (13,835).
Indeed international students make up 20% of the UK’s undergraduate student body and a staggering 35% of all postgraduates, meaning there are close to half-a-million international students in the country at any given time.
Under normal circumstances, there are around 250,000 students arriving into the UK every academic year and this number had been forecast to substantively grow based on the reintroduction of the post-study work visa.
However, as the Covid-19 crisis takes a firm hold the current environment is anything but normal. Altogether international students in the UK contribute approximately £7.5 billion in tuition fees alone, while further generating an estimated £12.5b for the UK economy over the course of their studies.
The case for automating recruitment processes
There are more than 30 communication and task contact points for international recruitment staff interacting with prospective students, ranging from answering immigration questions or helping students extend their visa, through to providing immigration advice or assistance with university systems or services.
This time-consuming activity adds to already heavy workloads in a highly demanding and competitive environment, meaning the only practical way forward for UK universities is to automate high-volume and repetitive tasks.
“As the Covid-19 crisis takes a firm hold the current environment is anything but normal”
Speaking to several of our clients in Australia, the only major western country to experience student intake under Covid-19, they report a need to switch recruitment staff into more retention-focused roles, with automation proving an important part of freeing up the necessary resources. Comments include:
Australian International Operations Manager
“We had a strong intake of international students in February, but are not dependent on a handful of markets, which cushions the blow in situations like this.
“The main impact has been around how we engage with our offshore partners as the current climate doesn’t allow face-to-face interaction.
“Our International team is working hard, but with a shift to a virtual student recruitment model. Our advice to UK institutions would be to keep in mind that international education is relationships-driven and it is important to continue to engage with the partners overseas.”
Australian Executive Director – International & Partnerships
“The first intakes of the year in Australia were initially impacted by the Australian bushfires. Our serious incident response teams were already engaged in responses to this when the rains suddenly came. Then Covid-19 emerged so you could say that disaster transition was relatively simple.
“However, as with everyone around the world, we have been trying to get ahead of the situation as best we can and have learnt to become more flexible, innovative and agile. Online student counselling, webinars, live streaming campus tours are all now part of the toolkit of international recruiters.
“Our message to UK institutions would be that most are well-prepared for changes to delivery and working models. However, look at these changes not as a temporary fix to get through the Covid-19 situation, but as an opportunity to reinvent how education is delivered and students are recruited and supported.”
The value of automation
Covid-19 notwithstanding many HEIs were already struggling with fluctuating international enrolments due to unpredictable political and economic conditions, such as the cancellation and subsequent reimplementation of the post-study work visa, changes to immigration legislation, and increasingly high levels of competition both at home and abroad.
Delays and additional obstacles in an already complex process can be frustrating to students and recruitment staff alike, which leads us to the ultimate question of how universities can maximise their ability to serve the international student population, and ensure they are well positioned to competitively attract and retain these students?
“Part of the answer has to be that universities should take steps now to streamline their international admissions”
Part of the answer has to be that universities should take steps now to streamline their international admissions. The use of efficient and automated technology, institutions can ease applications and, post-acceptance, help students navigate immigration procedures.
Our experience with universities has found that 80% of staff time normally dedicated to manual student communication processes can be reduced to a mere 31%, a massive saving in cost and energy expended enabling front-line employees to focus on the quality conversations that prospective students are demanding.
There is now an opportunity for universities to adopt this fast-moving culture and consider how it influences their approaches to people, processes and systems.
We are only moments away from a time where implementing bespoke cloud-based apps to solve specific problems will be the new norm, in the same way we download apps to book a taxi, order food or enjoy entertainment. Adapting such a culture will truly revolutionise the staff and student experience.
About the author: Jeffrey Williams is co-founder at Enroly.com