Friday, 25 May 2012

All the fun of the HE Fair

Spring is a particularly busy time for the Marketing & Recruitment Team.  Alongside the planning and delivery of on-site recruitment events (Applicant Days and summer Open Day), we are also busy representing the University at HE fairs and conventions across the UK. 

Primarily organised by UCAS, these events are a great opportunity for us to literally set out our stall at schools, colleges and universities across the country and grab the attention of eager students all making that first step in the university decision making process.  The events tend to be regional, attracting excursions from schools and colleges in the surrounding area.
Shai and Adam at Manchester UCAS Fair -
setting up those graphics is no mean feat!

Some students come well prepared with questions about the University or their preferred course of study - others less so (“What’s the difference between Chester and Chichester?” is a question our marketing reps have been asked on more than one occasion!) - but equally well placed to find out more about us and whether we are the university for them. 

Annabelle at a local HE fair organised by Sir John Dean's Sixth Form College in Northwich

From Birmingham to Bournemouth, Liverpool to Lincoln, HE Fairs are a great way for us to engage with our target audience in a tangible way.  Crucially, they are also an opportunity to capture that all-important data with which we can contact prospective students throughout the enquiry and application process - the first ‘call to action’ being to come to our summer Open Day!

Occasionally we get asked by event organisers if we’d like to provide subject specific talks which contribute to a wider programme for students on the day – if this is something your department would be interested in, I’d be keen to hear from you. 


Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator - Chester

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Open Day - A BIG Thankyou!

We are now only a day or so away from the Open Day. It has been a huge task to complete all of the necessary work required, both from a marketing perspective as well an academic one, but yet again we have risen to the challenge superbly.

The Open Day guide looks great, so well done to Anna Long for co-ordinating all of the content, and to me (Stuart Grant!) for the design, artwork and for arranging the print. There was a huge influx of briefs to us, from banner stands and wrap-around displays, to course leaflets, posters and flyers...and also a lot of new and updated web content too.

Not forgetting

A BIG thank you to all of the academic staff who supplied their written briefs in time and to our design and web teams, admirably led by Marc Kneebone (who also designed lots of the printed material) and Neil Martin on web.

We have many heroes in proof reading, editing and printing, but it's been a fantastic team effort in general. The event itself on Saturday will see many of our team doing their bit to provide potential students with a great experience of the University.

All the best for the BIG day!


Monday, 21 May 2012

Outreach, simply reaching-out? (Part 1)

How do we define Outreach? Can we define it or is it simply 'reaching out'? 

Now I'm not much of a wordsmith, but I've always looked to the Oxford English Dictionary as first port of call for any of my referencing needs (those of you lucky enough to read my dissertation will certainly agree!).


They define Outreach (as a verb), as 'To hand out, or over. To present, give' while another definition sees it as 'To exceed or go beyond bounds; to stray'. I really like the term 'stray' as I think it best defines what we do, and why we do it. Whether it is the boundaries of access to University, or the very nature of communicating with organisations outisde of our own, I like to think we're always looking to 'spread the word', or 'stray', across a few barriers.

As I have a tendency of going into great detail (!), I've decided to take the first Outreach blog in two parts. Be sure to look out for Part 2 in the coming days where we'll look at what Outreach actually looks like to a possible student.

Now how do I start to explain the changes in the Outreach Office over the past two years? It’s a tricky task, but one I’m willing to have a go at. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride through government policy, aspirational plans, and one persons journey through the whole process!


At Chester our Outreach Office comprises of seven of us in all, with schools and college’s liaison activity and our department’s widening participation activity, combining into one unit over two years ago. This meant that all communication from our department with schools and colleges would be co-ordinated through the work of Outreach, as well as working towards being aware of the communication being made between the wider University and these institutions.

Wordle: The Browne Report

Some of these changes were made before the Browne report and before the Coalition Government’s announcements of changes to the funding system for those starting higher education in 2012. This meant we were very well placed to add three members of staff at the beginning of this year, to meet the needs of a quickly changing HE climate in this country.
Through all the media coverage of what’s been happening in higher education over the past few months, there have been repeating themes, terms, and questions, being thrown about by the media and the sector.

  • How do we ‘widen participation?’
  • What ‘outreach’ activity are Universities involved in?
  • The students as a 'consumer'
  • The overall issue of Social Mobility

Hopefully through our updates you may be able to understand how we’re working to solve some of these. Now put simply, there are two distinct areas which Outreach covers, and explains the different types of activity we're involved in;

"Widening Participation & Recruitment"

There are age groups, and students, who may interact with both areas throughout their school or college experience, and it's important we're aware of their requirements. As pupils become students, and students become consumers, the Outreach process is involved in every step of their journey.

End of Part One...

Although relatively brief, I'm sure you'll agree that the scope of Outreach is rather large across the entire University, and society beyond. We haven't yet got to 'Joe' and his educational journey, but as an introduction to the topic of Outreach, I hope you've found it insightful.

Thank you reading, and be sure to tune in next time.


Monday, 14 May 2012

A Guide to Conversion: Engaging and Maintaining Student Prospects through Relationship Marketing (Part Two)

The Saga Continues

In my last blog we talked about the importance of implementing a successful relationship marketing strategy and began to look at how this works in practice.  You may recall that I introduced you the model shown below.  Let’s now take a closer look at what is happening at each stage.

The Decision Making Process

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Open Day survival guide for exhibitors

As we leap out of the depths of winter and awaken to the sights, sounds and down pours of rain it is summer time, which means only one thing, not the end of the football season but an Open Day at the University.  In the marketing team, it takes months of planning, plenty of broken pencils and hundreds of cup teas made while pouring over the details of the day.  We want to provide an experience such that it leaves the prospective student keen to apply to us in September next year.

What is an Open Day?

Open Days are pre-application events and will often be a prospect’s first visit to the University.  It’s their chance to take a closer look at the campus, its facilities, the courses, the city and, most importantly, meet the people who make the University of Chester what it is… you.  If you are representing the University at an Open Day, remember that first impressions do go a long way and students are likely to be well prepared on what to look out for.  And it’s not just the student that needs to be impressed, there will also be mum, dad and sometimes even grandma and granddad!  More than ever, prospective students and their parents will be looking at what they will be investing in and how it will benefit them.

The Open Day Fair

So why exhibit I hear you ask, especially when they could just as easily go to an academic session and get all the information they need there?  Well, not only will the Open Day Fair give prospects the opportunity to have all their questions answered on a one-to-one basis, but it will enable them to gain a more universal experience of what it would be like to study subject X or subject Y, especially if they are planning on a combined route. Unlike the days of old, when we used to have a massive influx of visitors in the morning, we expect the Open Day Fair to be steady throughout the day.

(Above: This is a good example of how to exhibit at the Open Day)

It’s all in the preparation

Before the event, check you have enough promotional materials (i.e. leaflets or factsheets) and, come the morning of the event, give yourself enough time to set up.  Anything can happen on the day and, with the experiences that I have had, arriving early should give you a chance to get everything ready on schedule even if there are some hiccups along the way.

Tip of the Day

A good tip for exhibiting is to have your table pushed to the side of the exhibiting area, as shown in the picture below.  This takes away any form of a barrier created otherwise by having the table in front of you and enables you to invite visitors into your exhibition space.  Having attended various events previously as both an exhibitor and a visitor, being able to speak to a person at a stand is far more valuable than having a nice table display in front of you.  All in all, engaging with a potential student and their family in a face-to-face situation should enable a more personable experience of the University and, ultimately, this could be a potential factor of whether they like Chester or not.

(Above: Lee and Robbie from Admissions using the shell scheme effectively at the last Open Day)
Health and Safety

Health and Safety is another important consideration for the day.  It’s about making sure everyone at the event goes home safely and has enjoyed the day. When exhibiting, you must check your exhibiting space for any potential hazards, ensuring there are no overhanging cables or trip hazards and that exhibition stands are secure.  Once people start arriving, you could be speaking to lots of visitors consecutively, so make sure you have a bottle of water or a drink on hand.  It is important that you keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Final Few Tips

Here’s a quick list of helpful, hints and tips on how to get the best out of the Open Day.


  • Be friendly and approachable
  • Provide accurate information about combinations and entry requirements and, if you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to re-direct the query to the admissions desk 
  • Use your latest promotional materials
  • Provide the departmental contact number for further enquiries
  • Be aware of health and safety issues around your stand/area
  • Give yourself enough time to set up and be ready for the event
  • Keep yourself hydrated with water as there will be a lot of talking done on the day
  • Ensure all areas of course provision are covered at your stand for both undergraduate and postgraduate delivery
  • Follow up on enquiries following the event – MRA can provide further details on prospects who registered on the day


  • Do not leave the stand unattended
  • Make sure any cables or objects are tucked away in a safe place so visitors don’t slip, trip or fall
  • Check your area for any other potential hazards that could injure you, your colleagues  or a visitor

Hopefully this will help you on the big day itself; any questions about exhibiting please do contact us.

Good luck and hope to see you on the day itself.

Until next time


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Guide to Conversion: Engaging and Maintaining Student Prospects through Relationship Marketing (Part One)

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I’ll begin. 

Getting to the point
Well actually, maybe I won’t start quite yet because I thought I should prĂ©cis my first blog with a bit of an apology. Despite the fact that, when it comes to advertising copy, I strongly advise to keep it short, otherwise no one will read it, I guess this is a case of not practicing what I preach! Therefore, in order to try and keep you engaged, I’ve decided to do this blog in two parts.  No cliff hanger I’m afraid, unless of course my first blog leaves you keen to find out more!  I should probably also apologise for my blog being more like a marketing tutorial, but I thought this might be a good starting point to help you understand what Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions (MRA) do to recruit students.

OK, now I’ll begin.