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When it comes to student recruitment, what is your most powerful tool?

An increasing number of universities around the world are finding the answer to be their current students. Those that have already taken the journey before, and can be a powerful advocate for your school.

Over 300 universities around the world, and an increasing number in Australia, have taken on this ‘peer to peer’ strategy, placing their students centre stage in their outreach activity.

What’s in it for prospective students and applicants? They get to speak to someone who has been there, done that. No matter their background, they get mentorship, guidance and reassurance from someone they can relate to. They get to hear a first-hand account that aids decision making.

For universities, they are finding that this authentic approach to marketing is reaping real results. Increased conversion at every stage of the funnel, from lead generation through to enrollment yield.

Last week, over 150 professionals from institutions across Australia, New Zealand and Asia came together to discuss all things peer recruitment at the inaugural Unibuddy Asia Pacific Summit.

Trish Rechichi, Director Future Students at the University of Western Australia, shared her experiences with harnessing student ambassadors. As the global Higher Education sector faces unprecedented new challenges around international student recruitment, having the right message has never been more important. And recognising the very different challenges and concerns that domestic students might face compared to international students is essential. But for every student, the ability to connect with a peer who shares characteristics can be hugely powerful

For student ambassadors, the chance to be an ambassador is an opportunity to give back to their institution, and support young people taking the same journey they took just years earlier. During the Unibuddy Summit, one Unibuddy ambassador shared his own experience.

Ishaya Gadzama is an ambassador for the University of New England - a UNEbuddy. He’s an international student from Nigeria, and currently on the Australian Government’s International Postgraduate Research Scholarship.

“Right from childhood, I have been brought up to cherish the importance of helping others and I have always used this mindset to guide my interaction in life,” he said during the Unibuddy Summit. “As a mentor, I have been supporting young people in their personal and professional development.”

“I wanted to be an inspiration to other potential students, especially international students. Sometimes, choosing the right university or the right degree can be daunting. I have been there before, and I needed someone to guide me but I found no one.”

As a UNEbuddy ambassador, Ishaya has taken the opportunity to give back to his institution by guiding prospective students on their journey.

“I answer so many questions and concerns from potential international students,” said Ishaya, “some of which include whether the standard of education in Australia is great compared to other universities around the world.”

Unibuddy’s own data shows that prospective international students care about a whole range of issues and are asking about topics as broad as international reputation, social life and the quality of academic teaching.

Throughout the summit, participants heard about the importance of using the right tools to speak to prospective students. The summit was hosted on Unibuddy’s own virtual events software, Unibuddy Live, which has been used by universities around the world to host virtual Open Days and visit days. The solution is purpose built for Higher Education, and lets universities put their student ambassadors and staff at centre stage with events that feature video-streaming and live chat functionality.

Research has shown that peer to peer interactions influence the majority of students when deciding where to apply to study. In a study conducted by Unibuddy and Intead, 57% of students said they were influenced by the conversations - compared to 47% citing friends and family as the most influential reference.

What was clear from the summit is that those peer interactions have never been more important than they are today, as students face difficult and unique challenges. Universities should evaluate how they are offering those powerful connections to their prospective students, and the digital solutions - such as Unibuddy - that are available to facilitate this.

To learn more about the Unibuddy platform, or to get access to the summit resources, get in touch.

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