Going Local: Latest Trends in 2021 University Applications

Thanks to COVID-19, a recent article in The Observer has highlighted that more students than ever before are applying to study at universities in their local area. Regional universities options are becoming increasingly attractive against a backdrop of concerns over the impact of the current pandemic extending into the next academic year. The article also goes further to state that the pandemic is accelerating a longer-term trend towards studying nearer to home.

23% of students in a recent UCAS survey stated that they want to study closer to home. Regional universities such as University of Cumbria are already seeing 10%+ increases in inquiries this year – even before the upcoming January application deadline. Over the past few years saving money and staying close to family and support networks have become central to decision-making. But recent pictures in the media of students struggling in halls has brought it all to the forefront.

Home and Abroad

What’s more, this isn’t just in the UK but it’s happening across the world. A recent Forbes article on trends in college admissions in the US highlights a similar pattern for both the Fall 2020 enrollments and the Fall 2021 applicant pool. The Covid pandemic has led to students applying later and “in-state”.

Other trends cited from recent data, reported by UCAS, include:

  • Rises in applications for vocational courses including teaching, business, nursing and medical sciences – inspired by the NHS’ work in the pandemic.
  • More pupils are expected to apply than ever before to make competition particularly fierce. UCAS is reportedly expecting a 5% increase in applications this year. There was a 12% increase in applications before the October 2020 deadline for dentistry, medicine and veterinary sciences, and for Oxford and Cambridge places.
  • A potential decline in applications from EU students because of the higher fees applied post-Brexit. Consequently this may free spaces for students looking to apply to big-name universities.

Local + virtual marketing = a winning combination for mid-ranking universities.

The pandemic has made being ‘closer to home’ an increasingly powerful consideration. 

The localisation of student applications specifically brings opportunity to mid-ranking universities who have previously seen higher-performing students often “poached” away by more selective universities. To capitalise on this local application trend, these universities need to jump on the opportunity and convert it. 

Never before have student applications rested so much on the power of the internet and the virtual world. At the simple click of a button, a university’s website will convey a lasting impression to prospective students of what it has to offer. These students are able to scour multiple websites at the same time. So, for universities to make the most of the opportunity, it’s simple. They need to stand out; to make that impression a lasting one. One that clearly showcases the very best they have to offer. 

Virtual Options

Whether through a virtual tour, a virtual open day or even a virtual student experience such as a VR course finder, all universities should consider maximising their marketing strategies with new resources like these. 

Virtual tours provide the opportunity for students to ‘experience’ campus life; walking through lecture halls, checking accommodation blocks or looking around the library. Virtual open days allow students to hear from faculty staff and alumni about their courses and ask questions. 

The best thing about virtual tools is that you can create just about anything you like. Stretching beyond virtual tours and virtual open days if you need them too. Whether it’s an interactive virtual test or a virtual ‘day in the life of’ video, possibilities are endless. And, as specialists in virtual experiences for the education sector, we do expect to see more variations on virtual tools in the year(s) to come so we recommend thinking about these options in the near future.

Our virtual tools are already having a positive impact on educational providers and their application process:

It has transformed the interest we get from students and generated real excitement about the college. Since we have been using the VR experience it has been seen by thousands of students.

Cambridge Regional College

To conclude

The proximity factor, combined with the power of the virtual world makes this age a golden one for many universities. 

With increasing evidence that content, rather than location, is featuring as the most important part of a student’s research into prospective universities, it is crucial for institutions to invest in virtual tools that will support this growing demand. 

If you’re interested in creating or upgrading your Virtual Tour, Virtual Open Day or exploring other virtual student experiences, please get in touch with our award-winning team. We’re proud to be market leaders in virtual experiences in the education sector, and are on hand to explore ideas together. Or, start by taking a look at our portfolio of case studies for inspiration! 

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