In our earlier post on Clearing, we looked at lessons learned from 2018 and what institutions could do to prepare for the new Clearing period. You can read it here.
Clearing is a vital part of student recruitment campaigns. Clearing is when Universities can offer unfilled places outside the standard central admissions process. In practice, during a period of time in August every year, if you didn't meet the entry requirements for a degree you can contact them (phone, chat, etc.) and see if they will accept you either with a lower set of grades or on to a course you didn't apply for.
Every year it is becoming more and more competitive, as Universities try and "outbid" other Universities to fill all their empty places. It also means that Universities worldwide get the chance to see student recruitment at it's best.
This week we've trawled the websites of every university in the UK to find the emerging trends, new features and best campaigns helping institutions succeed in the scramble for students in Clearing this year.
Why Clearing matters
As a recap for those of you working in Higher Ed outside the UK, Clearing is when universities offer unfilled places outside the standard central admissions process.
Students can use this period if they didn't meet the entry requirements for a degree to see if the institution will accept their application with lower grades or offer a similar course.
Or for students matching or exceeding their predicted grades they can also use Clearing to 'shop around' and make last-minute changes to their institution and course choices.
This has created an increase in transient student activity and resulted in even more competition. And last year set a new record for the number of people, 60,100 of them to be precise, being accepted through Clearing, which constitutes 17% of all university applications in the UK.
Most institutions allocate a portion of the website homepage to Clearing content each year, but this Clearing period sees more institutions dedicating the majority of the homepage to Clearing information with high impact masthead imagery, video content, animation, illustrations, and other marketing content.
An exception to this trend is the University of St Andrews which includes a section on the homepage stating they will not have any places available in Clearing. This is standard practice for the "top tier" Universities.
Data capture is even more prominent this year it seems, with institutions emphasizing that students don't need to wait until results day to register their interest. This early engagement is being promoted with cleverly worded content and user-friendly forms to maximize the potential for early engagement with prospects.
The University of Greenwich is a good example, with a 'Get priority access' call to action leading through to a set of clear benefits for signing up including being provided with a priority phone number for results day, access to a Clearing instant messaging service for prompt advice, call back options and regular updates and tips. Similarly, Liverpool Hope University promotes their Priority Pass, the way to a stress-free summer, which provides a guaranteed call back before 11 am on results day.
Meanwhile, some universities are splitting the user journey to distinguish clearly between the needs of students that already have their grades and those awaiting their results which seems like a logical way to direct prospective students to information that's relevant to them.
Bradford University, for example, has a section on the homepage titled 'waiting for your results?' and 'have your results?' with further associated content based on what the prospective student selects. Similarly, Bournemouth University sets out the next steps for those who already have an offer through Clearing, covering information on accepting the offer, booking accommodation, discovering the local area, finding funding and getting ready for the start of term.
Many institutions have also really perfected their Clearing content this year and crafted video explainers and well-written content to provide guidance and information for prospective students delivered in a logical flow through high-quality designs.
The University for the Creative Arts provides video tips from a current student for example. Solent University has a stand-out illustration on the homepage and Clearing landing page and an existing student outlining the process in a video.
And the University of Hull offers one of the best examples of highly optimized Clearing landing pages. Their Clearing pages provide contact details, the courses which are available through Clearing, the steps to securing a place, clearing testimonial videos, accommodation overviews, open day details, and links to virtual tour content and a city overview. It's a masterpiece in setting out content in a logical flow that aligns with the prospective students' information needs. The University of Leicester has a similarly well-considered content structure for its Clearing landing page.
Clearing pages are increasingly following e-commerce practices with Livechat functionality, and chatbot technology and some also use student ambassadors to support instant messaging services. These services are becoming more prevalent during Clearing and institutions appear to have resourcing in place to introduce them earlier in the cycle and with extended hours of service compared to previous Clearing campaigns.
The University of East London executes this superbly with LiveChat powered by Intercom, and a floating Facetime widget, whilst Bucks New University takes this further by offering options to Livechat directly with staff and student ambassadors from various courses.
Another LiveChat and Live Q&A solution a number of universities are using is Chatify.com, formerly known as Pubble. Chatify provides Universities with features like page-level routing, page-level Knowledgebase, unlimited Team Members and the two most useful for clearing reply Live and reply later, and chat and Q&A. These features allow Universities to fully optimize data that they gather and enable them to reply with accurate answers around clearing. Some Universities currently using Chatify include:
Newman University, meanwhile, encourages students to apply via social media with options to message the institution on facebook, twitter or WhatsApp and a section of the page that automatically opens each channel.
UCAS points calculators are now found embedded as a helpful feature on Clearing pages this year alongside Clearing checklists and further guidance to help prospective students avoid the mad rush and panic on results day.
Great campaigns and Clearing content
Clearing is the perfect time to unveil new campaigns and many institutions are pushing the boat out with great film content showcasing the university experience and student testimonial videos.
The University of East London has a wonderful campaign that links a motivational film, on the theme of #bethenext, to alumni videos for each type of achiever - champion, entrepreneur, creator, humanitarian, and innovator. The combination of inspirational footage and the films of alumni stories is really compelling.
Middlesex University's campaign uses current students to break down barriers and put students at ease to encourage them to apply through Clearing. The narrators feel natural and convincing moving through a range of environments on campus.
Clearing has become an integral part of the modern university admissions process
Every year there a few standout Clearing activity examples, but this year the entire market has upped its game.
These campaigns, and the functionality and web content we've covered in this article all present information clearly and logically and make the Clearing process easier, practically and emotionally.
It shows that with strategic and creative thinking, it really is possible to bring together the right ingredients to create an outstanding Clearing experience.