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AI, data and the balancing act of student acquisition

A lot has changed in the Higher Education sector in recent years – government legislation, student expectations and tuition fees, to name just a few – but one thing hasn’t changed: the perpetual need to acquire and recruit more students.

It’s no secret that more and more universities are treating students as customers – customers that demand high levels of customer service since most are now paying at least £9,000 a year. As a result, students are no longer just attending university to receive an education, they expect an experience. And providing that student experience isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise – different students want different things. So it’s crucial that universities really understand their customers, making use of the wealth of data available about them, in order to deliver the best experience.

...students are no longer just attending university to receive an education, they expect an experience.

Having robust, well-organised datasets is also fundamental to automating processes and adopting forms of A.I. Students are exposed to these are experiences in their daily lives and so expect them when engaging with a university.

Can you effectively show a prospective student what their life might look like in three or fours years time? If you can’t, the student will likely enrol at a university that can. Given the large financial commitments that students must now make, providing students with an idea of the ROI they might receive is key.

A tough balancing act

The removal of student number caps in 2015 means universities are more-or-less able to recruit as many students as they like. And with more students equalling more revenue, it can be tempting to overdo it at the expense of the student experience. Simply put, the more students there are at a university the more difficult it gets to provide an exceptional student experience to all of them. Here lies a paradox: universities want more students. Students want a great student experience. A great student experience should lead to more students. But more students can lead to a lower quality student experience. A balance must be struck.

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