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The University of Leicester was among a handful of pioneering UK institutions to recently become IDP Live partners. We caught up with Danielle Fitzgerald, Director of the Future Student Office at the University of Leicester to find out how IDP Live, our transformative student-centred app, is helping prospective international students find their ideal institution and course at the click of a button.

View video interview here:

On becoming an IDP Live partner, Danielle Fitzgerald, Director of the Future Student Office at the University of Leicester:

Q&A in text:

1. What challenges were you experiencing that led you to look to IDP Live to support your recruitment strategy?    Some of the challenges that we were looking to address through IDP Live were around diversification. We have some really good, strong brand recognition in certain countries, and we have lack of brand presence in others. IDP being a global player really opens up small markets for us, where we might get direct applications, but don’t have substantially built-up relationships. For us it was a bit of a no-brainer to really leverage IDP’s global network and go with a product that essentially supports students who are ready and prepared, giving them the VIP service that they wouldn’t necessarily get if they were doing a direct application from those countries where we don’t have a lot of representation at present.

2. How do you think IDP Live will help you overcome these challenges?  I think IDP Live will help us overcome these challenges in two different ways, I think one building awareness with the counsellor network that IDP has, ensuring that we’re front of mind as an institution and giving us the opportunity to do a lot more training and build relationships with offices. And I think the counsellor, even with this great initiative and piece of tech, is still key as part of this journey and for us it’s an opportunity to really build that relationship with the counsellors and ensure that we’re transmitting the best information to our students. I think that’s of key importance, because the more people that understand and know what type of institution Leicester is, the better students we will get, the students that want to come here and be part of our citizens of change journey and really change the world for the next hundred years, it being our centenary this year.

I think one of the other elements that is interesting for us is looking at that VIP service with a completed application. So oftentimes turnaround time is very much impacted by the fact that there’s always something missing, and the admissions team does a lot of back and forth with students. The offer in principle allows us essentially to do that screening ahead of time and enables us to be quicker in our response time, because we can prioritise that application, because we know it’s complete when it comes in. I think that will be really beneficial to the students, but also to us and our staff, really being able to focus and prioritise complete and high quality applications.

3. What gives IDP Live and its fast-tracked recruitment capabilities the edge in the market?  I think you’re one of the first to do this at scale and there are global players looking at it, but I think it would be very difficult to duplicate. I think what it does enable is a trusted service through IDP. In my experience, so 15 years working internationally in pretty much all countries, I always remember in Vietnam students would always come to IDP sessions, it was a really great place to advertise an in-country information session, because it always got really good numbers. And I think for IDP adding the fast-track service will ensure that students do apply through IDP rather than going somewhere else once they’ve heard of the institution. I think it supports the institution, but also supports the students and, hopefully for IDP, will be a real game-changer and something that I imagine a lot of competition would look to replicate.

4. What synergies do you see between IDP Live’s student-centred approach and your institution’s values and key strengths?  The synergies are really about genuineness and students really being considered in their approach and choosing the right institution for them. We’ve just written our strategy and our values are really about inclusivity, diversification, but also impact. I think the synergy is there with regards to what IDP is doing, we’ll have a lot of high impact with regards to conversion and quality of application and that sits within our institutional values around not doing a million things, but really doing what we do well. And I think this is something that hopefully could support students from all types of backgrounds - we have some fantastic scholarships at the University of Leicester, and this hopefully brings more awareness of our offer rather than just a generic search hundreds of institutions popping up in that first stage of the application process.

For us, it's a very good fit. I think IDP's global footprint aligns with our global ambitions as well as our diversity agenda, which is obviously very important from a domestic perspective with regards to inclusion and widening participation, but equally important for international. We want our students to really feel that they're getting a multicultural experience when they come to the UK, and therefore touching and being able to change the lives of students across the world is very much part of our mission.

5. Why do you think it’s important that innovative technology, like IDP Live, is leading the sector rebound in the UK? 

I think it's important that in education we move with our audiences. The response time of how we as institutions have been able to turn around and have a fully blended offer, an online offer and moving our open days digitally has been remarkable. We're going to keep that, so we'll have on-campus events, but we're going to keep our digital offer as well. We've been able to offer a lot more flexibility to our students to start online and our support services are much more accessible in many ways, through the digital sphere. So, it's only right and normal that IDP is a leader in the education field, taking tech seriously, and moving to support us as we stay technically ahead of the curve. There's always silver linings with COVID - IDP's role can also be to challenge us as institutions to keep innovating, to never stand still, as well as our audiences, which are students, whether here in the UK or overseas. Students want to see us on the platforms that they're on and they want to work with us in a way that suits them. I think it's crucial to us as institutions and crucial to IDP to always put students first. It's great to see IDP Connect at the forefront of this innovation.

6. IDP continues to innovate through leading tech coupled with human connections. How does that align with innovation at your institution?   I think the leading with education tech and the human side is very much in line with what we're doing at the University of Leicester. We're making quite big investments in our automated platforms, in our e-communications and working to develop personalisation in our website. But that doesn't replace the human at the end of the phone. One of the things that we've noticed during the pandemic is a massive increase in telephone enquiries, be that from enquirers or applicants, certainly at start of term in September with very specific enquiries. They didn't want to email and get an email response. They really wanted to speak to a human. They wanted to be reassured and they wanted to have a conversation. Certainly, our enquiry data has shown that through our phone systems.

We've worked really hard at the University of Leicester to ensure we had continuous phone support from the enquiries perspective throughout the pandemic. And even now if my enquiry team are not based in the office, they're able to pick up enquiries and telephone calls wherever they are. And I think that's really in a response to student demand and that need for personal interaction. But I'd say a step further, as well, is our investment in our people. We're growing our enquiries function, so that we can support other services. Before a student arrives in the UK or registers, there are no gaps. They're then handed over smoothly. Many institutions weren't necessarily investing in that with the thinking: why would I need a bigger enquiries team, we're doing everything digitally? I would argue that that's probably the wrong approach. We have seen an increase in the desire to have our enquiries teams respond. From our perspective, I think we're very much aligned with what IDP is doing with that. Tech first and then human contact with the counsellor second. And I think it very much aligns with what we're currently doing at Leicester.

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CP - Image - Franki
Franki Clemens15 December 2021