Social media is key to reaching prospective students, according to The Access Platform, which also helps institutions utilise their existing student cohort to work as ambassadors.
“Videos created by current students are the best touch point”
The UK-based company has created a peer-to-peer platform where students can share their university experiences with those at the stage of applying for HE.
TAP evolved from a recognition that higher education applicants today expect universities to communicate in a “fundamentally different way” than previously, according to Nik Higgins, TAP co-founder.
Higgins – who worked in widening participation for UK universities before realising his mission could be commercialised and extended to international students – explained his company, set up in 2016, has helped institutions boast 24% user-to-applicant conversion through its platform.
In addition, 74% of users say they are more likely to apply to an institution after an interaction through the platform’s chat feature, Higgins said.
“I spent several years watching universities try, often unsuccessfully, to persuade students to apply to their university by giving them leaflets and glossy prospectuses,” Higgins explained.
Students now expect an “authentic, social, and digital-first approach”, he noted, and word of mouth is vital for those choosing where to study.
“Images and videos created by current students are the best first touch point for international students trying to find out about what a university is like, and whether there are people like them at the institution,” Higgins said.
According to UCAS Media, 83% of applicants want to see content created by current students, while 80% of applicants choose their university based on word of mouth information, he noted.
Universities sometimes seemed to “miss the massive impact that their student ambassadors had on young people”, Higgins added. “I thought there was more that could be done with them as a resource.”
“TAP allows universities to harness the power of both content and peer-to-peer conversations, and to use these in tandem to create a powerful student-led resource that can be used across the entire student recruitment cycle.”
The UK-based company, which is currently working with 30 universities, is now looking into how influencers can help universities reach wider audiences.
As platforms such as Instagram becomes an increasingly important factor in reaching new students, TAP suggests universities can do more to leverage their brand and offer.
According to TAP, 45% of questions posted by prospective students on the comment section of universities’ Instagram accounts go unanswered. International students also ask a disproportionate amount of questions using the feature, the firm attests.
UKCISA statistics show that 83% of international students use social channels to initiate their university research.