SUMS Consulting has been talking to university leaders about managing the Covid-19 crisis and their visions for the future. With views gathered from a series of one-to-one interviews, SUMS’ Community of Practice Groups meeting virtually, along with student surveys, SUMS is able to take a service-by-service review of university operations. It has found a sector eager to change and seeing positives in adversity.   Here, Felicity Gasparro, SUMS Associate Consultant, shares original research findings from a survey of prospective undergraduate students considering their university options in the wake of Covid-19.

The storm clouds had been on the horizon for the 2020 undergraduate recruitment cycle long before Covid-19 ever emerged.

With the number of available recruits at the bottom of the demographic dip, set in the context of increasingly challenging financial times for HEIs, 2020 was already going to be incredibly competitive with universities striving to fulfil as many offers as possible.  In the run-up to the end of 2019 there was increased scrutiny of the methods being used by universities to secure the best students, and it was widely reported that the Office for Students had warned universities to ‘not use inappropriate inducements’ to lock the highest achieving students into opting for their institution as their top choice.

Validating the criticality of getting the recruitment cycle and admissions process right for 2020, SUMS Consulting had been engaged by several member and non-member institutions to evaluate and optimise their recruitment, admissions and clearing processes, keen to fine-tune well-trodden paths, ensuring they were ready to receive, process and enrol applicants.

The plans and strategies that had been formed by universities were impacted with the arrival of Covid-19 when GCSEs, A/S and A-Level exams were cancelled on 18 March. It was apparent that what was already a pivotal year for university recruitment and admissions would become even more so because of the pandemic.

Read the full Rapid Response Briefing Paper here.


SUMS’ consultants are gathering in-depth views from university leaders across the full breadth of university operations. We’ll be publishing their service-by-service findings later this month. Register here to receive your copy of our full sector report.

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