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How UWE Bristol scaled student support to meet unprecedented student demand

Student support demand like no other year

The coronavirus pandemic has made even the most mundane aspects of student life, like grabbing lunch, complex. Ever-evolving lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantine requirements create uncertainty and challenges for both students and student support teams. Like other universities in the sector, UWE Bristol experienced a sharp rise in demand for student support at the start of the autumn 2020 term.

‘We always put students at the heart of everything we do and are committed to providing the best student experiences possible, but the pandemic made it harder to live up to this mission with new challenges placed on university teams.’

Sophie Turnbull, Head of International Office, UWE Bristol

UWE Bristol has worked with UniQuest since 2014 to improve international student conversion across all stages of the recruitment journey by delivering omni-channel student engagement journeys at scale – most recently achieving a 27% year-on-year increase in offer conversion. FAQ insights captured as part of UniQuest’s student conversion services revealed that a high volume of students preparing to arrive on campus for the autumn term were experiencing anxiety about self-isolation.

‘Despite the pandemic causing a huge amount of disruption to the sector and students’ plans, we found that many of our international applicants were still keen to continue their journey. In normal years, planning a move abroad is a big deal and international and EU students coming to study in the UK typically have many questions and concerns as they prepare for their journey.

This year was even more complex. Ensuring that we supported students not just with their pre-departure requirements but also with their arrival in the UK felt extremely important, but threw up logistical issues in terms of staffing and resource at the University.’

Sophie Turnbull, Head of International Office, UWE Bristol

Concerned for the wellbeing of both home and international students about to self-isolate in student accommodation, UWE Bristol sought to rapidly increase its capacity to proactively check in with students.

The University leveraged its partnership with UniQuest which enabled regular, personal engagement of its 2,900 self-isolating students.

Meeting individual student support needs at scale

Acting on UWE Bristol’s behalf, UniQuest Student Advisers called each self-isolating home and international student once a week for three weeks to check on their wellbeing. Self-isolation presents all sorts of challenges to students’ daily lives and the personal phone conversations helped identify and resolve issues quickly.

UniQuest Student Advisers provided student support for any wellbeing challenge – big or small. Straightforward enquiries were answered on-the-spot and students with more serious physical and mental health concerns were put in touch with the relevant student services teams at UWE Bristol.

The proactive outreach even uncovered some students who were struggling to book food deliveries from local grocery stores or restaurants and hadn’t reached out to the University for help, either because they didn’t know how to or didn’t think to do so. UniQuest Student Advisers connected these students directly with UWE Bristol’s catering team which quickly delivered food parcels to their rooms.

To maximise contact with students, UniQuest Student Advisers called students around their schedules, often making calls in the late afternoon/early evening when students were more likely to answer. Managing a coordinated, consistent and personalised outreach effort, UniQuest increased UWE Bristol’s student contact rate by 108%.

‘UniQuest’s ability to scale up so quickly allowed us to support students in ways we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Working with UniQuest meant that we were equipped with their expertise, market knowledge and trained staff to support us so that we could focus on our future intake of students.’

Sophie Turnbull, Head of International Office, UWE Bristol

Identifying student trends

UniQuest tracked student FAQs and common challenges to inform UWE Bristol’s communication strategy, identifying gaps in published information or areas to improve signposting to existing student support resources.

Common FAQ themes included:

  • Lifestyle questions like ‘can I leave my room to do my laundry?’
  • Regulation-related questions like ‘does the student travel window apply to me?’
  • For international students specifically, travel restriction questions like ‘can I fly home during the student travel window?’

‘Using insights shared by UniQuest, we updated website content and communications to ensure students had as much relevant information as possible at their fingertips with the aim of better serving students and reducing enquiries to university staff.’

Sophie Turnbull, Head of International Office, UWE Bristol

Prepared for challenges ahead

It’s finally 2021, but we’re still far from a return to ‘normal’. UWE Bristol remains proactive in its approach to student wellbeing and has extended its work with UniQuest to scale engagement with its broader undergraduate home and international student cohorts.

Contact us to learn how UniQuest can help your university extend and accelerate student support during the latest UK lockdowns.