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Increasing scholarship applications through search

​​How can search help a university make scholarships more accessible to students and increase applications? Here’s UAL’s approach.

Stéphane Recouvreur

Stéphane Recouvreur 05 September 2022

University of the Arts London

Offering an extensive range of courses in art, design, fashion, communication, media, and performing arts, the University of the Arts London is one of the world’s leading institutions in its field. Split over 6 renowned Colleges, the world-class institution has produced famous alumni such as designers Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo, Pierce Brosnan, Charles Saatchi and the distinguished inventor James Dyson.

Industry

Higher Education

Products

CMS, Search

Bespoke course finder tool

The relationship between the University of Arts London and Squiz goes as far back as 2013. UAL was no stranger to Squiz’s technology, its capabilities, and the problems it can help solve.

Having already proved effective in connecting visitors with the most relevant information for other universities, UAL saw the value of Squiz's search capabilities and tasked them to do the same for their scholarship program.

Offering over 80 scholarships, each with numerous conditions outlining eligibility, such as level of study, college of attendance, course subject chosen, country of origin and time of year, the current system of listing scholarships was not only difficult for visitors to be able to scan, but even more difficult for students to discover their eligibility to any given scholarship.

The challenge was double: help increase the visibility of the existing catalogue of scholarships open to students and help them to quickly and easily discover if they are eligible to apply.

Rethinking the user experience

Working with our in-house consultancy and technical teams, UAL tasked Squiz with creating a bespoke course finder tool, as well as examining and evaluating opportunities for a search to answer user experience challenges.

“The team at Squiz are all experts in their field. They worked hard to develop a solution that exceeded our objectives in a very short timeframe, putting user needs at the forefront of their developments at every stage,” said Steph Upton Head of Marketing at UAL.

Autocomplete and suggestions to increase click-through

An autocomplete feature has been implemented to guide users toward existing and more relevant results.

Courses are then immediately suggested further below. UAL is then using two simple tricks to increase click-through.

First, similarly to Google, users’ keywords are highlighted (in green) as a confirmation that the result is indeed relevant to the query.

Second, the level of study is displayed (Undergraduate or Postgraduate) to help the student “self-select” and click on a more relevant result, hence decreasing users’ likely frustration to visit a course page not adapted to their needs.

Course Suggestions

Faceted search

To further assist users to find the information they are looking for faster, UAL displays a faceted search at the top of the result page. Using tabs, the user can decide to search the entire website (the default option), or narrow their focus to just courses or Research for example.

Faceted search

Course and scholarship filters

Having previously existed as an A-Z list, a visitor previously needed to either know the exact name of the scholarship they were looking for or would have to wade through over 80 options to find the best fit for them.

Instead, the proposed solution was to create a parametric search widget tool, allowing users to search by their course focus, course name, College, or scholarship name, should they know it, or alternatively, to view all the scholarships the university offers before further filtering.

Course filter

By making the information more accessible, Squiz helped transform a once static page into a dynamic and responsive search module.

“The Scholarships Search tool has made a hugely positive contribution to a user’s ability to find the scholarships, bursaries, and awards that they might be eligible for,” says Steph Upton, Head of Marketing at UAL.

Each filter option also indicates how many results it contains, nudging the user to refine their search further if too many results are returned.

It’s all about the pageviews

Offering users more control to intuitively search and filter has not only made finding the most relevant scholarships on offer easier but improved user experience and discoverability which is reflected in an impressive uptake of page views.

The scholarship search has received over 260,000 search queries, which have led to almost 165,000 scholarship page views, an increase of 57% compared to the same period before the search tool implementation.