For UK universities and higher education establishments, 2020 has been a challenging year. Having had to endure busy periods like university Clearing during a lockdown for the first time. Many have adjusted the ways they communicate with both students (and their parents). Overcoming geographical restrictions with access to more FAQ pages, templated automated responses and branching out to other channels of digital communication.   

UCAS previously predicted that 80,000 prospective students would be using Clearing as a method to obtain a place at a university for September this year (The Guardian). Leaving a huge task for universities; figuring out a completely new digital strategy for it.

This article will outline how technology helped one member of the Russell Group, Queen Mary University of London through Clearing and other key areas that should be considered for digitisation in the new normal.

Tackling University Clearing Through a Lockdown

Queen Mary’s were able to successfully handle Clearing, one of the toughest periods of the year through lockdown. Having become a Britannic Technologies’ customer through a G-Cloud tender for their Mitel telephony infrastructure, they knew they already had a partner who could help. Previously engaging in projects to upgrade and enhance the system, enable home working, an omni-channel contact centre and digital engagement methods all through one unified solution.

During lockdown, like most, all university staff had been working from home. Queen Mary’s quickly deployed over 400 remote staff and volunteers to help with Clearing. Having a MiContact Centre in the cloud meant that the geographical restrictions were no issue!

The key to the success Queen Mary’s had with Clearing through lockdown, was in their ability to add a variety of digital channels to communicate with prospective students. Using INBOX, a solution fully integrated with Queen Mary’s Mitel MiContact Centre enabled them to route, respond and automate student (or parent/supplier) enquiries from any digital channel. The university was able to bring together their social media channels, along with WhatsApp, webchat, SMS, chatbot and voice calls into one dashboard view.

Dr Rachel Bence, CIO for Queen Mary has commented:

Digital transformation is key at the University. Britannic Technologies upgraded our Mitel MiContact Centre to integrate with our CRM solution and augmented it with software to automate, prioritise and pre-qualify digital interactions. This enabled us to handle enquiries more efficiently and provided the capability to capture and interrogate data.

During Clearing, Queen Mary were able to automate, prioritise and pre-qualify digital interactions. Including thousands of enquiries handled through WhatsApp, a very popular channel with students!

3 Key Areas of Digitisation for Universities and Higher Education

Clearing is an important aspect for many higher education organisations, but there are so many other areas that technology solutions can help. We have outlined some of our favourites for you.

Communication with International Students

With a 9% increase this year in the number of international undergraduates students to start their studies this autumn (UCAS), it’s clear the UK is seen as a desirable location to gain a degree (even in the midst of a global pandemic!). As it’s likely the number of international students will rise year on year, universities need to think about their communications strategies with those outside the UK.

Multilingual chatbots, like BiziBOT for example mean that the prospective students can comfortably communicate in their first language with universities to get all their basic enquiries answered.

It doesn’t matter whether prospective students are in a different time zone, with a chatbot they will get an immediate response. Having communication solutions like this in place will improve the experience for international students and strengthen the rapport between them and their selected university.

Data Management

Higher education handles a lot of data. Some of it, very confidential to students. Meaning updating and managing data through a variety of systems is a challenge, but especially important. There are solutions that can ensure your data is updated in all databases, through one entry point.

This is critical for ensuring marketing and communication preferences are kept up to date. To enable the effective distribution of key communications for open days, timetables, and terms dates. You could even ensure that you know preferred student channels of communication. As a result you’d be able to automatically distribute messages via WhatsApp or various other channels.

Improving Enrolment Efficiencies

Enrolment is without a doubt another huge task for universities and colleges. Solutions like INBOX reduce the need to copy and paste templates into digital channels of communication.

Enabling you to setup and trigger templated responses based on rules and filters. These could be based on the keywords or phrases used in the enrolment enquiry.

More Digitisation to Come!

Lockdown has forced higher education to take the jump to digitise processes like Clearing that have typically been very labour intensive. With the new normal on the horizon, more will start to look at how they can utilise resources more wisely, improve the student experience and continue to automate key areas.

Learn more about Queen Mary’s story by watching their talk from our Convergence Summit this year.