Our Insights

How has COVID changed the landscape of higher education open days in the UK?

Post by
Geri McGann - Principal Client Advisor, Europe

Little did we imagine that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would be continuing to affect our lives in 2021 and create a fundamental shift in the way we work, shop and attend events, including higher education virtual open days.

From consideration of current student experiences to the recruitment of new students, the restrictions that COVID has put in place has meant that digital channels now form some of the primary means for Universities to engage with students.

While online events and in some instances, Virtual Open days, are not new to many universities, visiting the campus was still a key part of the University experience for prospective students and a key event in the recruitment calendar. The move to a Virtual Open Day has challenged many universities who might not be as digitally mature as their counterparts.

With education and services slowly opening back up, what role do Virtual Open Days play in the recruitment of students? Will they become redundant or are they here to stay? In a recent Global Reviews study, 35% of prospective students stated they would prefer to visit onsite open days only but 41% of prospective students stated they would like the option to attend an onsite open day and/or an online virtual one day.

36% of prospective students stated they would attend an open day for a university that was not located near them, demonstrating that the ability to adapt to digital delivery has widened the net for third level education institutes when it comes to student recruitment.

In Q3 and Q4 of 2020 Global Reviews conducted a Virtual Open Day benchmark which measured over 200 individual experience criteria across 26 universities in three countries: Australia, UK and Ireland.

These experience criteria were subsequently weighted by over 500 prospective students (both domestic and international) in an online interview.

This research helps universities understand:

• Prospective students’ attitudes, preferences, and expectations of
  Virtual Open Days
• Their performance in Virtual Open Day digital service maturity in
  comparison to competitors
• Where they should focus future digital feature innovation for virtual
  open house
• What digital propositions achieve the greatest impact in driving
  engagement and ultimately student acquisition

In our webinar Global Reviews revealed the expectations and priorities for prospective students when attending virtual open days and highlighted the digital maturity of leading Australian, UK and Irish universities. We answered key questions such as:

• What expectations do prospective students have when attending a
  Virtual Open Day?
• What experiences do Undergraduates, Postgraduates and
  international students deem most important when attending a
  university Virtual Open Day?
• Which brands are digitally more mature when it comes to the types
  of experiences they are offering, for example;

  • What makes Coventry and Bath score top for overall digital maturity?
  • What are University of York doing to encourage return visits?
  • What are University of Limerick doing to provide the top experience of a live session?
  • Why are Australian Universities on the main, scoring higher than those in UK and Ireland, with an overall average by 2.1?

This webinar highlights:

• How universities can gain advantage by prioritising more
  intelligently and promoting features that matter to prospective students
• Best practice examples of those university brands that are delivering the
  right experience and significantly outperforming the competition

Some of brands we shared results on include:

• AUS: Deakin University, University of Melbourne,
  Monash University and RMIT
• UK: Coventry University, University of Bath, and University of York
• IRE: University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin

So for the foreseeable future, Virtual Open Days have a role to play when engaging prospective students. Missed our webinar? Get access to the webinar recording by clicking the link above. The recording will hep to find out how you can maximise your Virtual Open Day strategy and to understand how you can get involved in our research for UK Virtual Open Day Research.

Register for Webinar