We don’t have to tell you twice; 2020’s Clearing looked very different to what the sector has come to expect in the summer months, but that’s not to say change hasn’t been coming for some time. So it begs the questions; will the education event of the year go back to pre-2020 normalcy, or will the government u-turns, behaviour shifts and exam cancellations have lasting effects on this year’s enrolment season? And in this new landscape, what do institutions need to get ready for? 

Here, our experts share their insight into changing target audiences, the need for a wider media mix, DOOH food for thought and why aligned application journeys need to be your top priority. 

Nick Willmer, Head of Education:

“For me, it’s the personas you need to keep a sharp eye on. Numbers of direct and mature applicants will continue to rise and possibly equal or surpass the traditional student group, driven by older age groups wanting to retrain or upskill. There may also be some shrinkage in the number of ‘gap-year’ students coming into Clearing due to the increased numbers of 17-18 year olds going straight into HE courses and Clearing last year, many put off taking time out as they couldn’t go travelling or find work during the pandemic. 

“In a broader sense, I suspect there will be more certainty and less turbulence in this year’s Clearing. We know the timings of when results will be released and we know that the government will be sticking to teacher-assessed grades. Unfortunately, we could still see a further drop in EU student applications, although I expect an increase from other countries with China and India leading the way.”

Tom Setter, Advertising Director:

“This year everyone is better prepared, the virus is better understood, we have seen earlier briefs. Expectations are high, but with increased pressure due to low numbers and the uptick in demographics, marketers are nervous. Clearing this year will be better prepared, with a wider media mix, and we have seen what happens with teacher-awarded grades, so competition will be fierce for the quality students. Students rightly will not be in a rush to make their decisions; the power sits with them and they know it.”

CJ Carver, Planning Manager: 

“In the 2020 cycle, we realised there is nothing more important to any strategy than contingency. There were many unforeseen and unprecedented changes that meant that student recruitment marketers had to react and adapt very rapidly. Signing off a contingency budget allowed instantaneous changes to take place in order to achieve the best possible outcome. The same approach must be taken this year, as the UK slowly leaves lockdown and user behaviour will, once again, progress and change. 

“As lockdown lifts, footfall around OOH sites will begin to increase once again; making traditional media imperative to a thorough Clearing strategy. Still, the approach needs to be digital-first, as user behaviour has accelerated towards mobile and desktop media consumption - faster than previously anticipated. Yet, to have a truly holistic approach that is adapted to the developing landscape, traditional media should still play an important role in your Clearing strategy.”

Alex Calder, Head of Product:

“Year after year, we see that students want universities to move towards more modern tools and comms channels - combined with the fact that many institutions were forced into a remote or digital-first Clearing last year, I expect to see a decrease in offers made over the phone, and many more made via digital channels.

“It is therefore incredibly important to be investing in recruitment technology now and ironing out the process for your teams to follow over the next few months, rather than leaving plans for the summer. Invest in email, live chat and the back-end technology to support this infrastructure now. But, don’t forget the clarity of communication between your teams who may or may not be working remotely.”

As you can see, there is a lot to play for. If you want to hear more about what our experts have to say about Clearing and what university partners should be prepared for, get in touch today.

Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Senior Marketing Executive