Cara Skikne

The role of student ambassadors in student recruitment


Student ambassador programmes can increase prospective student engagement and enrolment rates. They can facilitate authentic conversations between peers and allow prospective students to ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking university staff. Student ambassador programmes allow prospective students to engage early with the university, get a good idea of what it is really like to study there, and gain more confidence to apply. Having access to a diverse range of student ambassadors can also widen participation for underrepresented students and boost diversity.

Insights from The University of York

We spoke to Layla Williamson, The University of York’s International Operations Manager for International Recruitment, Partnerships and Mobility:

“Students today want authenticity. They want to know exactly what things are going to be like and not the information you get off a website. They want to know about the experience and how they’re going to feel. I think that is one of the key drivers for decision-making for students.”

“We have used the Unibuddy platform for a number of years. It is a peer-to-peer chat function where students can select who they would like to speak to. They can just reach out and quite literally ask anything. Our ambassadors appear on the Studyportals pages. Students can engage straight away – and we can reach them earlier in the journey.”

Use student ambassadors at every stage in the student journey

“Our analysis shows students reach out at all stages – it could be as early as 18 months before they’re due to study, when they’re submitting their application, and once they’ve received an offer. The questions will be different, depending on which stage of the student application journey they are at. It’s absolutely key, during that conversion period when students are weighing up their options.”

Support ambassadors with training

“We support our ambassadors thoroughly with training, onboarding programmes and recognition at the end of their programme. For ambassadors, it’s something that looks great on your CV- to be university representative.”

Prioritise ambassador programmes in your recruitment strategy

“In any recruitment strategy, this should be one of the top priorities. I would say it is worth the effort, against other traditional recruitment methods. Students today want authenticity. The benefits are huge.”

“It’s fantastic for us as an institution. I think the ambassador scheme really provides that next-level insight as to what it really is like to study here. We have a really strong conversion rate from students who have spoken to Unibuddy ambassadors. A vast number of offer holders who engage on the platform have gone on to enrol at The University of York.”

Accelerating international student recruitment

This was originally published in Studyportals’ 6 ways to accelerate international student recruitment‘ guide – a collection of approaches supported by mini-case studies from universities across the world.

Find out how universities have amplified their impact by:

Choosing focus countries – Insights from The University of Maryland, Baltimore Country

Optimising programme portfolios- Insights from The University of Bristol

Extending access online- Insights from IU International University of Applied Sciences

Building a strong ambassador programme – Insights from The University of York

Breaking through the digital noise – Insights from The New School

Using data strategically – Insights from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Download the guide he

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