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Before the glamourous outfits went on and the drinks started flowing at the prestigious Whatuni Student Choice Awards ceremony, IDP Connect held our annual WUSCA Insight Day at the Barbican, London on 26 April.

Attended by institution representatives from across the UK, Insight Day is an information-packed set of industry-focused presentations and networking opportunities intended to help our clients, and prospective clients, understand the full value of the WUSCA reviews, awards, and much more.

Hosted by Aaron Porter, Director of Policy and Engagement at IDP, this year’s sessions included:

- Reviewing reviews – What are this year’s reviews telling us?

- How University College Birmingham’s 2022 ‘University of the Year’ win improved their brand perception

- Connecting the dots – Getting the most from GA4 and your digital real estate

- Understanding Generation Z through data – What does the data tell us about how Gen Z are making their university decisions?

- Whatuni student panel – An interactive discussion on student motivations and what matters most in HE decision-making

- Running up that bill – How the cost-of-living crisis is impacting applicant preferences

- The future of university recruitment

Sessions were presented by members of the IDP team, representatives of UK HE institutions and other experts from across the sector, and each one aimed to provide key information on the importance of seeking out, listening to, and acting upon the authentic student voice.

Delegates tell us that being nominated for and winning a WUSCA is an extremely big deal, but the reviews tell us so much more than which university is considered most highly in each category. Each review imparts crucial information about the student cohort across the country right now, and yes, every one of the 35,000+ reviews from 240 institutions was read by an IDP moderator.

We pay attention to what was said, so that, as an industry, we can help the students and make the changes that matter. By tracking the review results, we can see how attitudes and rankings change over time and measure the differences across the UK. We can see which regions and mission groups are excelling and where change is required.

Listening to the authentic student voice

When drilling down into the student quotes this year, key themes included the importance of studying within a supportive community, the significance of having passionate teachers who deliver quality education, and the benefits of a diverse student body. The student reviews broadly tell us that when universities are performing poorly there are some recurring key points. For example, lack of response to enquiries, lack of access to effective funding, poor communication between lecturers and students, and lack of clarity in respect of how the institution can provide support services.

Likewise, when universities are performing well common points included, the passion and responsiveness of teachers, strong community feel, accessible personal tutors, and institutional dedication to serving the students.

These themes provide clear signposts about the things the sector needs to improve upon and what students are appreciating right now.

Informing the HE decision-making process – listening to the voices of real-life students

Insight Day presentations provided lots of in-depth exploration into all sorts of data and looked at how it can help institutions understand students and build targeted approaches for effective engagement with their cohorts.

However, if ever there was an opportunity to understand student motivations, the Whatuni student panel session is almost certainly the one that raised the most eyebrows (we know because we watched delegates express surprise, shock, and appreciation as the brilliant panelists spoke).

The five-strong panel consisted of students from years 12 and 13, and those in their first year at university. Among many subjects discussed, delegates were treated to an unfiltered exposé of what influenced the panel’s education choices, what has surprised them about their higher education journey so far, and what a ‘high-quality education experience’ looked like for them. And judging from the almost never-ending stream of delegate questions posed to the panel, their input to the day was gold dust.

What could the 2024 Insight Day do for your institution?

Whether your institution is nominated for a WUSCA or not and whether you are a client with IDP or not, the annual WUSCA Insight Day is an opportunity to find out what students are saying across the UK.

From affecting strategic decision-making processes that will guide marketing decisions and programme policy for the next few years to learning that changes to a free bus service have meant your students are always late for lectures (and how disgruntled they are about it), the WUSCA reviews are an invaluable asset.

And to highlight this, here is our anecdote of the day: as delegates were greeted in the foyer, some were asked if they were also attending the awards ceremony later that evening. One attendee told us that their institution wasn’t nominated, so they were attending the Insight Day to find out how they could improve and, ultimately, be at the awards dinner next year to claim a trophy. And, in a nutshell, that is what the WUSCAs mean!

To find out more about how IDP Connect can help your university track the data that matters and build campaigns that will enhance recruitment and help you connect with your students, contact our client partnership team today.

Jane Venn
Jane Venn03 May 2023