Graduate Outcomes is a new method of collecting data from graduates, introduced this year by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), replacing the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.
The key difference for universities is that graduates will be surveyed by telephone or online approximately 15 months after completing their studies – this is a significant change from the current DLHE survey, which contacts graduates after six months and therefore presents universities with a significant challenge to keep students engaged long after graduating.
The period of 15 months has been chosen to give graduates a meaningful opportunity to progress in their post-graduation activities. The HESA feel that this length of time is “still close enough to the point of completing studies that high response rates should be achievable”; but with many students losing access to their university email address, using a personal email or new professional email address or changing phone numbers, staying in contact is in reality very difficult.
The HESA provides strict guidelines on how universities can and can’t promote the graduate outcomes survey. These guidelines include:
- Promotion should be done only to raise the survey’s profile
- Universities will not be able to direct graduates to the survey (only the HESA can send the link)
- Care should be taken when promoting the survey – universities should not confuse graduates by suggesting they are eligible to complete the survey through a particular institution when they are not
- Promotion can only be done on a general, not individual basis
- Universities are able to raise the profile of the survey at any point before or during the contact period
- Best practice suggests that there’s particular value in promoting the survey at the following points:
- During the student’s final weeks of teaching
- At graduation
- Shortly before the contact period starts.
With all of the above in mind, it’s critical that universities create a marketing schedule to keep in regular contact with students both before and during the contact period. Here are our top tips for universities when considering the best way to promote the survey to students throughout the year:
Make it personal
88% of marketers reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalisation — with more than half reporting a lift greater than 10%. Although you can’t promote the survey on an individual basis, you can make sure that your communications campaigns are personal to the recipient. This includes using personalised email marketing and landing page creation within your campaigns to drive improved engagement results.
2. Engage the audience with relevant content
Fifteen months of contacting students about the Graduate Outcomes survey will get very tedious, very quickly. When marketing to students, combine your Graduate Outcomes messaging with content that students care about – how they can extend their student discounts after graduating, job interview tips, CV-writing tips or even downloadable templates.
You need to give students a reason to sign up, update their email addresses and to stay engaged with your communications after graduating – and content is a great way to do this when done right.
3. Use strong call-to-actions
Although you can’t instruct students and graduates to fill out the survey directly, you can ensure that your messaging is both strong and clear in all of your communications. Your main priority is to ensure that your database is up to date with the primary contact details for each recipient and so this should be a main call-to-action in your marketing as well as stressing the importance of the survey and its purpose.
4. Keep in regular contact
The new fifteen month time span is long – particularly for students for whom a lot will still be happening more than a year after graduation. Chances are most students will have moved – whether that’s abroad, back home, or to a new house or flat in the same or a different city. Hopefully, most of your graduates will also find themselves in employment. This might be their very first full-time job and it will be surprising how quickly university life becomes a distant memory.
This is why it’s so important that you keep in regular contact with students and send them communications that are both relevant and useful to the new chapter of their lives.
5. Use cross-channel marketing
Staying in touch with students and keeping them engaged with your institution is both a branding and messaging exercise. As we have discussed, it is of course important to send them relevant content regularly using strong CTAs. We recommend doing this across print, email and online content marketing – but we also recommend combining this messaging strategy with a brand marketing strategy. This can be done by targeting current graduating students and recent graduates across social media platforms that they already engage with on a daily or weekly basis (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn). This way students continue to see your institution’s brand in familiar places for months after graduating and makes them more likely to stay engaged with or re-engage with your brand when they are sent the survey by the HESA.
Engaging students after graduating needs a structured and varied approach in order to promote the Graduate Outcomes survey and boost response numbers. AG Education are specialists in multi-channel marketing, and are able to develop and deploy a personalised campaign for optimum reach. Our strong case studies and positive demonstrable results speak for themselves.
To discuss taking your campaign forward, contact Ryan Bennison, Education Market Director on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0191 5800915, or simply complete the online form on our website.