Could it be that universities are about to see a vast increase in applications as a result of the global recession caused by Coronavirus, as was the case after the 2008 financial crisis?
Just before the COVID-19 hit the headlines, the Office for Budget Responsibility increased forecasts for new English-domiciled students by 100,000 over the next three years.
But beyond the focus of school-leavers, we also need to look again at this year’s graduates who are faced with a challenging employment market. There is already evidence that employers will be cutting this year’s graduate intakes and, for the same reason school-leavers are flocking to university, we can expect to see more graduates staying on longer.
Let’s hope this uptick in domestic students continues because universities are already preparing for a dramatic fall in international students as social distancing measures hinder travel across the globe. As the sector’s success hinges on international student income, it’s clear that we’re headed for bumpier times, already exacerbated by Brexit.
Could this temporary change of behaviour lead to new norms, though? Looking beyond this crisis, some see advances in remote learning tools as an opportunity to cut the growing costs of education and open up new markets. Will international students be swayed by digital learning platforms, or will they return once the international community solves the COVID-19 problem?
The timing of this crisis couldn’t come at a worse time. There remain challenges with HESA’s methodology for collecting data on graduate outcomes, at a moment when many millennials and businesses are questioning the value of higher education. After all, who would want to gain £27,000 of debt in preparation for the dole? About a quarter of graduates remain underemployed, shifting unemployment to those with fewer qualifications.
In a recent survey from Tribal, it was highlighted that an average UK university spends about ten times more on their marketing as they do their careers services. If universities are to remain attractive to students and society, they need to do much more to develop their university careers service and support HESA in gathering the necessary data to demonstrate fulfilling career outcomes.
Last year, a presentation at BT’s headquarters in London from the Office for Students highlighted how universities needed to do more to be able to attract people from a broader range of backgrounds, particularly the socially disadvantaged, but also more mature students. This is a noble aim, but again, without demonstrating satisfactory graduate outcomes, important questions remain about higher education’s value, particularly at a time of global instability and uncertainty.
Crimson works with the higher education sector to deliver more intelligent student journeys, using Microsoft cloud technologies. If you are interested in learning how you can deliver greater student experiences and enable greater transparency of outcomes, contact Crimson today on 01675 466 477