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The Challenge


Maximising applicant conversion is a high-priority task for even the most prestigious universities. The University of the Arts London (UAL) is one of the world’s foremost art and design institutions, attracting applicants from the UK and across the globe. As with all universities, every year a number of applicants either withdraw before being offered a place, or are offered a place, but decline it.

In most cases, the university will never hear from these applicants again, but UAL wanted to get to the heart of what makes prospective students pull out. It was important to understand how the picture differed between the University’s six colleges, and explore the impact of other factors such as study level and demographics.

“We realised this was a group of people we were putting quite a lot of resources into, but we didn’t actually know much about them.”
Market Analyst, UAL

 

 

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The Solution


Using UAL’s database, we conducted a quantitative study of people who had withdrawn or declined offers. We asked about the whole application process, including reasons for applying, barriers to enrolling, competing universities and feelings about the application experience. We also conducted a “deep dive” into key issues such as the interview process.

After running the research successfully in 2016, we were invited to repeat it in 2017, this time incorporating our SnapMe video research approach, with respondents filming their answers to important questions. This helped bring the findings to life for the various stakeholders within UAL.

The Outcome


The findings – presented to the University centrally and to each of the six colleges – have informed UAL’s recruitment strategy and processes.

The research revealed how, with so few opportunities to interact with the University before accepting a place, seemingly trivial matters could have a decisive impact on an applicant’s view of the institution. This has helped each of UAL’s colleges improve the experience for applicants at open days and interviews.

The findings also helped the University to address concerns about the cost of living in London and communicate more effectively about the support it gives students to help with this.
The second wave of the research allowed the University to compare results and get a sense of the direction of change. On the whole, the news was very good, including a 10% point increase in the number of applicants saying they had a positive experience with UAL.

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