In these extraordinary times it is more and more important to come together and learn from each other. Every university is facing challenges – whether they are related to health concerns of their students and staff working remotely, recruiting students during the crisis, or organizing their teaching effort into e-channels etc. There are questions that are being asked every day – what should we do, where should we focus our efforts, how can we get support for what we need to do?
At DreamApply we unfortunately won’t be able to answer all those questions, but we can do our small part in what we do well – and that’s international student recruitment. While universities are nowadays mainly working from home and student recruitment events are mainly cancelled, we were interested to hear how institutions are coping. In DreamApply we’ve built close relationships with many universities worldwide to support them in their internationalisation efforts. We sat down with Leonid Markusyk, the Director of International Marketing and Recruitment of Vistula University to hear how they are doing. Vistula University is one of the first and largest private universities in Poland and has invested massively in internationalisation over the past years.
How are you doing? How has this whole situation affected your work?
Vistula University has already been trying to become more and more digital year by year. For the last two years we have been trying to travel less and a majority of our communication happens via online channels. We started working more with local agents and not participating at local events ourselves. We were little bit experienced working digitally. Of course, it was difficult at the beginning but we received fewer and fewer complaints from both our students and staff. However, in recruitment and admissions we haven’t had any issues as our systems for admissions, recruitment and marketing are all online.
We also had an early warning, and for that we must thank our colleagues working in the regions where the novel coronavirus started. Thanks to them we could get ourselves ready for working remotely and prepare for what was coming.
How are you coping with working from home?
At that point I can say that we are coping with working remotely very well as most of our staff consists of young people who are very familiar with technology. We don’t need to check on them all the time as I trust them, and all necessary work is done in time.
How did this crisis change your daily work routine?
I can’t say that this situation has affected our daily routine too much. Our routine changed far more drastically five years ago when we implemented DreamApply, as before that we reviewed around 400 applications manually, using Excel and Word. Today our staff can focus their efforts on the most important part of recruitment – communicating with prospect students around the world.
For communication with prospects we have been using different social tools like WhatsApp, Instagram, Viber etc. for a long time, which also are not dependant on people being in the office. Most of our team are our former or current students so they do understand how prospective students communicate.
How has this situation influenced your intakes? Are you experiencing any change in the number of applicants?
Fortunately, we haven’t faced any decrease in the number of applications, in contrary we have managed to break the record of the last three years in the numbers of applicants. We expect to have as many enrolled students as we had in the previous years.
What are the major challenges you have encountered so far with student recruitment? What measures have you taken to meet those challenges?
Before the crisis our main challenge was to travel around the world to all these different countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe but with DreamApply we started working more with local agents. It has reduced the need for one on one communication with both – applicants and agents, which gives us more time to focus on more important things. We rely on our agents who do the meetings themselves as we experienced years ago that going to fairs is not as effective as personal contact from a local agency. The agents we are working with have a clear overview of their applicants from their access to our DreamApply system. It helps them to support the students they are helping to enrol at Vistula and it helps us to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of their services, which is a great time saver for both sides.
What risks do you foresee for your student recruitment/admissions activities in the future?
I think that using online tools for admissions and recruitment means that there probably won’t be too many issues with that. We can see from our current international students that they very much prefer not to study online, but to be here physically. We are a rather practical study-oriented university and we have very good connections with local companies that are open to on-board our students. I think every crisis has its starting and ending point so of course we don’t know exactly about possible travel restrictions in the near future but for the long term I believe that we can continue the way we have done so far and if needed we also have a very strong e-learning department to make sure every enrolled student can start their studies without much delay.
Any recommendations for other universities in a similar situation as you?
We are happy to use several online tools in admissions and recruitment, so all work can be done remotely if needed and there are no delays in communication. If anything, then this current situation shows the importance of keeping all parties informed of all developments and the importance of communication between all stakeholders.