Lessons learned from May's UCAS Media Insight Newsletter

Thursday 17 June 2021, UCAS advice


Lessons learned from May's UCAS Media Insight Newsletter


Brighter mornings. Warmer evenings. The end of another disjointed academic year is fast approaching. With restrictions looking set to come to an end at some point this summer, higher education is becoming tentatively optimistic about being able to do some good old fashioned teaching again. 

But there’s still some way to go, on many fronts. So we’ve spent May supporting the sector’s mission back to normality, on both the student and academic sides. 

The UCAS Media Insight Newsletter is your monthly snapshot of what’s going on in higher education; how student behaviours are changing, what policy is coming over the hill, and how you can leverage our resources for your benefit. You can sign up here. 

Here’s what’s been happening in May 2021: 


Even before the events of 2020, it was becoming more and more difficult to engage with the nation’s would-be students. Increased competition and more pathway options were dividing attention, and cutting through the noise became the key focus for student marketing departments. Sprinkle in some COVID-19 impacts, with its deferrals, its lack of physical interaction, and its widespread uncertainty – and an uphill battle started to look more like a mountain trek. 

The same was true on the other side of the coin. Young people are scouring more resources to find their answers, and filtering more information to uncover what’s relevant to them.  

Enter stage left: Discovery Days. 

A new digital experience to polish both sides of the coin, and an opportunity for would-be students to find their future without ever leaving their sofas. These online events are all about exploring possibilities, getting questions answered, and learning about different universities, apprenticeships, and much more. And, of course, they offer HEPs the opportunity to engage with an audience which is actively seeking them out. 

We hosted more than 27,000 attendees over dates in March, April and May. On average, they spent an average of 75 minutes factfinding and troubleshooting their decisions for the 21/22 year, utilising almost 150 live sessions and informative videos. 

They described Discovery Days as informative, helpful, interesting, inspiring, and insightful. And in June we’re running Discovery Week, with even more packed into the busy schedule. Find out more here


Of course, HEPs have as much skin in the game and as many unanswered questions as the students they’re hoping to recruit. In a sector which can feel at times competitive and siloed, it can be difficult to find the opportunity for shared knowledge. 

But the past 18 months have done much to buck this trend, as HEPs pulled together to pool resources and knowledge in solidarity of common difficulties. In the same spirit, we teamed up with Unibuddy to deliver an online masterclass for the sector’s hard-working professionals. 

With more than 450 attendees from 115 HEPs, we heard from speakers including HELOA, University of Leicester, Nottingham Trent University and University of Glasgow, on the student journey, cycle data trends and 2022 planning, plus student ambassadors gave us a glimpse into their motivations for choosing what and where to study, and what they value most from their university experience. 

Delegates described the masterclass as “a brilliant mix of data, policy, and the student voices” and “really useful, accessible sessions and full of insight and ideas.” With many more in the pipeline (hopefully in person!), addressing topics including non-traditional student journeys and marcomms best practice, we’re building a list of what else the sector needs to cover. 

Have your say, get involved, or suggest topics/speakers


And finally we want to congratulate everyone who was shortlisted in May for the 2021 Heist Awards, which are now less than a month away. After delivering an inspiring and engaging virtual awards night last year (the champagne delivered to hundreds of attendee homes played its part well), the Havas Education team is back for another (and hopefully final) digital conference, on 15 July 2021. 

The Heist Awards are the sector’s celebration of the best student marketing campaigns and activities from the past year. Over 30 years, the awards have grown into an unmissable event in the academic calendar, and the winners often go on to influence trends and styles for the coming year. This year’s may be the most important yet in that regard, with HEPs needing to find new and novel ways to tackle unique challenges and setbacks.  

We’re sponsoring this year’s awards once again, and would strongly encourage everybody in the sector to attend. Not only will you find inspiration from the 100-strong shortlisted campaigns, a formidable speaker list at the conference before the ceremony will also be sharing insight on: 

  •  A look at how macro societal trends will impact on education needs and delivery 
  • Accelerated transformational change to enable continued widening participation 
  • The future of marketing – how to engage with the next generation. 

From University of Gloucestershire’s innovative Instagram prospectus, to Salford’s unstoppable TikTok campaign, this year’s shortlist is a must-see of technological firsts. Digital engagement is looking to be the main engagement tool for a little while longer, so getting the lowdown on successful executions could make all the difference to you for the 2021/22 AY. 

We can’t wait to see you there. 

For the full version of May’s UCAS Media Insight Newsletter, and to sign up for future snapshots, please sign up here