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Keystone acquires UniQuest in enrolment generation drive

Student search powerhouse Keystone Education Group has announced it has acquired UK-based student engagement, conversion, and retention specialists, UniQuest, as it seeks to “disrupt and innovate the existing traditional counselling and agency model”.

UniQuest has moved "further down the funnel", since being founded in 2013, into current student support

This is another acquisition for Keystone as it evolves its business mission.

Historically, the Norway-based business has been focused on lead generation and the move to acquire UniQuest will provide more value to customers – especially around enrolment generation, the company noted.

Keystone expects the move will help it further evolve into a “complete end-to-end lead-to-enrolment generation platform”.

The acquisition is the latest in a handful of buyouts and mergers in the past year for the company, including EMG and acquisitions of FindAUniversity, College Scholarships USA, and AGM Education.

“We also have to be about helping customers drive enrolments and get a good return on investment”

“This is a game-changer in the student counselling and recruitment space, presenting a unique opportunity for Keystone to disrupt and innovate the existing traditional counselling and agency model that has prevailed for years,” Erik Harrell, Keystone’s CEO said in a statement.

UniQuest, launched eight years ago and raising funding to scale its growth, was founded by Natalie Letcher and Rachel Fletcher. It aims to deliver “personalised student engagement journeys at scale and without interruption”.

“Combining UniQuest’s operations with Keystone’s recruitment services will enable us to offer extremely robust student recruitment, enrolment, and retention services to our 5,500 customer base, across our key geographic markets, including the US, the UK, and continental Europe,” said Harrell.

Speaking with The PIE, he explained that the company could no longer “just be about lead generation”.

“We also have to be about helping customers drive enrolments and get a good return on investment,” he said, a key part of which is Keystone Recruit, its enrolment & conversion service, launched earlier this year.

Keystone sees itself as a ‘house of brands’ and UniQuest will continue operating its own brand to help customers “face their enrolment challenges head-on and gain an edge over their competition”, Harrell continued.

UniQuest CEO, Rachel Fletcher, commented, “A lot of what we do is about engaging with students via the right channel at the right time.

“Combined with Keystone’s impressive global footprint and student reach, together we will be able to help more universities around the world reach their student recruitment goals, delivering unparalleled student support,” she said.

UniQuest has moved “further down the funnel”, since being founded in 2013, into current student support, she told The PIE.

This work is to increase student engagement, whether early on in the cycle or throughout the year, and also identify any particular at-risk students.

“This is a combination of applying the right, proactive human outreach to students,” she explained – to ensure they know how to use the VLE or know how to contact their academic tutor, for example.

This might happen via Whatsapp or phone – “they do actually talk to us” – and ultimately, referring any at-risk students back to the university’s own support services.

“This is allowing the university to do what they should be doing and focusing on what they do best when using their internal resources,” added Letcher.

“We’ll find out not just about who’s turning up and enrolling, but who’s going on and succeeding”

“As we continue to dig into [our data] over the months and years, we’ll find out not just about who’s turning up and enrolling, but who’s going on and succeeding and we’ll be able to join that full circle with demand at the top,” Fletcher added.

“That really is a picture that that no one has the moment, and I think that is really exciting.”

The combined data and insights will provide “enhanced predictive modelling and forecasting to our customer base, making improvements along the entire recruitment value chain”, Harrell added.

Every year, Keystone helps more than 110 million unique prospective students decide higher education degree program or course to attend.

And since launching Keystone Recruit in January, “we already have over 100 customers”, noted Harrell.

“Our aim, of course, is to accelerate the growth of UniQuest. We absolutely anticipate that because we see the demand.

UniQuest’s engagement with 1.2 million students to date has resulted in 80,000 enrolments on behalf of higher education institutions across the UK and US.

Read analysis on how student recruitment has become more focused on conversion in The PIE Review here.

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