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Approaching Brexit: intensifying our engagement with Europe

By Guest Blogger, on 26 March 2019

UCL Student Liaison and Recruitment Manager Hayley Simpson explains how UCL is intensifying its student recruitment activity in Europe, in spite of national uncertainty 

Many could quite reasonably argue that the UK Higher Education sector has faced more than its fair share of challenges in recent years. Subjectively speaking, the ongoing uncertainty and unanswered questions as we approach the original scheduled departure date for the UK to leave the EU seems to overshadow anything we have seen before.

The ‘will-we-wont-we’ discourse, unprecedented outcomes from the series of meaningful votes in early 2019 and possible delays to Brexit have only added to this pressure cooker of uncertainty.

Remaining true to its spirit and in the midst of an ever changing landscape, UCL has continued to look outwards, not inwards to maintain and consolidate our commitment to Europe.  We have cast our net wider and intensified our engagement to ensure that we can continue to attract the brightest and the best students to join our global community, and to reassure them that they will always be welcome here.

Intensifying recruitment activity 

Building on new initiatives rolled out over the past 12 months, we have continued to expand and intensify our programme of targeted student recruitment activities across the EU to prepare for 2019 and beyond.  This has not only helped us to maintain numbers to date but (as of March 2019) we are able to report an approximate 4% growth in overall EU applications to UCL for 2019/20.

It is too early to say with certainty how these trends will evolve, but given the ongoing uncertainty around tuition fees, questions on access to student loans, and increased competition it is unsurprising that the UK Higher Education sector is reporting variance across markets.

In terms of what we are doing in practice, we are confident in UCL’s ability to attract applications and we have therefore been intensifying and diversifying our in-country conversion activities across Europe, to ensure we are able to support high quality prospective students at such a key decision-making point in the cycle. We are supplementing this with a series of online activities, utilising UCL’s virtual events platform.

Identifying key influencers

We have jointly identified areas for collaboration in key Europe markets, working closely with other Professional Services and academic colleagues across UCL to ensure we are joined-up and showcase the UCL community at its very best. We have also been evaluating key influencers in the prospective student journey, and have put in place a number of initiatives to enhance our relationship with these key stakeholders. This helps to ensure they are well equipped to advise prospective students on applying to UCL.

Keeping in mind the 4.4% increase in EU students enrolled on full degree programmes at UCL in the 2018/19 academic year, the early indications and overall application trends have meant we are cautiously optimistic for the 2019/20 academic cycle.  At the same time, we are not complacent and remain alert to the fact that UCL is not immune to the ongoing risks presented by Brexit, particularly given the many unknowns for EU students who will be applying for 2020 and beyond.

Global outlook 

All of this serves to highlight why it is so critical that we are now consolidating our presence and efforts across Europe to ensure that we continue to champion UCL’s global outlook and build strong relationships, that we demonstrate UCL’s excellent research and the magnificent breadth of academic disciplines on offer.

In a similar vein to the discussions around Brexit, the student recruitment landscape is far from static; through intensifying and innovating our student recruitment activities and engagement across Europe, we are striving to ensure that UCL is the top choice for students from Europe and beyond.

If you would like more information about our recruitment activity for Europe, please contact: Hayley Simpson, Liaison and Recruitment Manager.

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