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Does automation have a role to play in the next normal?

As the world begins to emerge from Covid-19 recruiting international students into higher education has never been more challenging.

Improving the productivity and effectiveness of under-pressure student recruitment teams is a vital move for any HEI. Photo: Unsplash

"Efficient and automated technology can ease applications"

The coronavirus pandemic has had many unexpected impacts on higher education, which until recently has been renowned as a reluctant party to operational change. This has all been upturned as universities have been forced by lockdown onto a path of rapid digital transformation.

While many academics and support staff have become used to the basics of Zoom calls and other aspects of remote working – online teaching, assessment and more intricate technologies are proving to be occasionally disruptive, and potentially harder to overcome in the long-term.

“Improving the productivity and effectiveness of under-pressure student recruitment teams is vital”

This comes in addition to threats including increased budgetary pressures, a decline in postgraduate demand, Brexit and US political instability.

In this climate the luxury of employing additional staff is unlikely, leaving leaders with a need to do more with less as they manage widely-distributed workforces.

Looking to the future, one of the most important opportunities emerging to counter this doom comes courtesy of the UK’s entrepreneurial tech sector.

Improving the productivity and effectiveness of under-pressure student recruitment teams is a vital move for any HEI looking to stand out from the crowd, and the most effective way to achieve this can be summarised by one word – ‘automation.’

On average there are more than 30 tasks and communication points for international recruitment staff interacting with prospective students. These time-consuming actions add to already heavy workloads.

Fortunately, there are now readily-available solutions to augment teams with technology that automates the most menial high-volume and repetitive tasks in the recruitment process, allowing for better management of workflows and, as a result, more students.

Our experience working with universities has found that 80% of the staff time normally dedicated to repetitive communication can be reduced to a mere 31%, a massive saving in cost and energy that enables front-line employees to focus on the quality conversations prospective students are demanding.

Even before Covid-19, many universities were struggling with fluctuating international enrolments due to unpredictable conditions, such as the cancellation and then reimplementation of the post-study work visa, changes to immigration legislation and increasing competition at home and abroad.

Delays and blockages in applications frustrate students and recruitment staff alike. However, efficient and automated technology can ease applications and, post-acceptance, help students navigate CAS requirements and immigration procedures.

Enroly builds solutions for exactly this kind of problem, including an automated applicant conversion compliance platform that takes care of CAS and visa administration tasks like document collection and student screening, which otherwise takes up valuable staff resources.

“80% of the staff time normally dedicated to repetitive communication can be reduced to a mere 31%”

The trend towards student recruitment automation is perhaps best summarised by one of our HE clients, James Morris, Immigration Compliance officer at the University of South Wales, who explains:

“In the current climate of UK Visas and Immigration scrutiny, the ability to make informed decisions about which applicants to sponsor is more important than ever.

“In terms of verifying that a student is in a position to apply for a visa Enroly’s CAS Shield automates a level of individual attention for each applicant that would be difficult to achieve using staff to undertake checks manually.

“The ability to upload clearly labelled and defined documents, accompanied by verification of their suitability, enables us to make quick judgments as to who is ready to receive a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies and who will require more support to apply for their visa, helping to mitigate unnecessary refusals or delays for applicants.”

Jeffrey Williams is CEO and co-founder of Enroly, a venture-backed technology company providing enrolment automation software for higher education, winner of the Edtech Breakthrough Award for Enrolment Management Solution of the Year, 2020, and nominated finalist for the forthcoming 2020 PIEoneer Awards for Digital Innovation of the Year.

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