Heriot-Watt University: a global institution meeting local admissions needs
Heriot-Watt University has campuses in Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, with around two-thirds of our registered students living and studying outside of the UK. This means we are a truly global institution. We need to ensure that our recruitment and admissions processes meet the requirements of our university, as well as the unique expectations of our applicants in each country.
As part of a wider revitalisation of our entire student record system, we have recently completed the admissions process stage, to ensure it meets the needs of our applicants, wherever they live. Having our systems operate in real-time, across time zones means our admissions process can meet the needs of our applicants and ensures we have a 360-degree view of what is happening across each of our campuses.
Three unique campuses, one baseline admissions system
Admissions is the lifeline of any university, but our previous admissions system was not meeting our requirements. We needed a system that firstly provided a global standard for our institution and secondly met the unique changing needs of each campus. For example, in Malaysia, unlike the UK admissions process, applicants expect to visit the campus, receive an offer letter and pay their deposit within an hour. Our admissions system did not allow for this to happen as we were running overnight batches between our systems and taking up to 48 hours to get a single application processed.
In order to meet these distinctive requirements, we decided to implement Ellucian CRM Recruit. It was very clear that the solution was on the leading edge compared with anything else we had seen and its functionality meant that it sold itself. In the demonstrations it immediately appeared applicant friendly – so easy to use and the implementation has proved this to be true.
The benefits of implementing Ellucian CRM Recruit
- We needed to ensure that our admissions system operated in real-time, across time zones, which is why it was important that it was hosted in the cloud. Given our institution is global, our admissions system needs to be live for at least 18 hours a day, from the start of the day in Malaysia to the end of the day in Scotland. Being in the cloud, rather than on-premise, ensures that our system is up-to-date with the latest developments and upgrades. The benefit of this being that Ellucian manages our upgrades for us, so there is no delay or time lost – a critical factor in ensuring applicants progress through the system quickly and efficiently.
- Ellucian CRM Recruit has made developing an online application form easy and straightforward. We have managed to significantly reduce the number of types of application forms the University had in use by using the contextual data on the form to drive mandatory questions relevant to the programme and/or country of application, avoiding complexity for the applicant, whilst meeting the needs of the University. For instance, we have to collect specific data in Malaysia that is not needed in the UAE or UK.
- We are now able to see where an applicant has begun the application process but not completed and submitted it. Ellucian CRM Recruit then allows us to target those applicants to see if they need help with the application process or are seeking further information. As we move into our first full admissions year, this will help us to target the right resources to help convert enquirers to applicants.
- A further benefit of implementing CRM Recruit as our global application service means that should an applicant have difficulty obtaining a visa to study at one of our Heriot-Watt University Campus, we are able to transfer an offer of a place from one campus to another, rather than lose the applicant.
- The integrated document management functions within CRM Recruit are helping us manage applicant data more effectively. Previously we would have received supporting documentation by post or e-mail, which then had to be matched up by staff with the application. CRM Recruit does this for us, so all staff responsible for the decision-making can access the correct information online.
- The applicant is also more in control of the application process than ever before. They can see when their referee has submitted the reference, chase them up by e-mail or even suggest a new referee. This has all reduced the enquiry load on staff as previously applicants had to ring or e-mail to check that the referee had submitted a reference. The CRM Recruit applicant portal also helps them track offers made, respond online and book preferences for applicant visit days. All of which is reducing the administration burden, whilst substantially enhancing the applicant experience.
- For the first time, this year, we have a standard way of evaluating our application and recruitment patterns in each campus. With everything on one system, all reported and recorded the same way, we are able to provide the heads of schools with the recruitment patterns for each campus in one dashboard, rather than across three or four separate spreadsheets. This means we can be confident that our admissions data is accurate.
- Another benefit to implementing Ellucian CRM Recruit has been the part it has played in managing our clearing activity in the UK. The ease of use meant that a group of university staff who do not normally manage admissions were enlisted to help alleviate the pressure of clearing day. The outcome of this meant we increased our number of offers and acceptances this year.
- Finally, having one admissions system means that each campus can assist with processing applications regardless of location. This is essential in preventing the slowing-down of offers made when a particular campus is overloaded with applications.
Quick and successful implementation
We rolled out Ellucian CRM Recruit in Malaysia and the time from tender to launch was just nine months. We then went live in Dubai and Edinburgh three months later.
If I could provide some advice to other institutions, I recommend going live with a working system rather than waiting until it is 100 percent ready. It is only when staff start to use the system that they see how the software can be best applied to enhance the student admissions process. For example, after we launched Ellucian CRM Recruit in Malaysia, we simplified some of our processes before we rolled it out in Dubai and Edinburgh.
Delivering a robust student admissions process in real time and making sure the information is correct is a technology challenge for institutions. We need to modernise our business processes to deliver that information in a streamlined way – and at Heriot-Watt University, we are certainly on that journey.