4 insights from the EduGrowth Melbourne Edtech Summit

The third session of the EduGrowth Melbourne EdTech Summit was delivered by a great mix of interesting speakers who discussed their perspectives on the current climate of student engagement.

Who did we hear from?

  • Tom Gifford: head of student recruitment for international and domestic students at RMIT, responsible for ensuring alignment and integration across marketing, recruitment, sales & conversion.
  • Elissa Newall: partner at Edified, helping tertiary clients improve results in student acquisition, student retention, student experience and student success.
  • Mark Woolf: international payment specialist for education at Conver, assisting education providers and financial institutions with international payment solutions.

The new paradigm of student recruitment and student engagement

Australian universities are reimagining how they engage with students locally and globally. So how has recruitment changed?

  1. Agency aggregators
  2. Sub-agents
  3. End-to-end scalable experiences
  4. Less final enrolment handover to the uni

Following an era of COVID lockdowns and border closures, many students are desperate to return to Australia. With one of the best global higher education systems and a strong emphasis on student experience and graduate outcomes, the reputation of Australian education is well regarded worldwide.

There was discussion on the benefits of investing in MarTech (marketing technology). For example, utilising CRM software and content marketing platforms to recruit students into new and emerging markets.

How to embrace (and implement) a new method

Tom spoke about having an audience-focused approach, as opposed to marketing, enquiries and recruitment being separated. Educators should focus on the holistic student experience that enhances graduate employability and puts students in charge of their futures.

The student learning experience has been revolutionised by digital technology but at its core, what students seek to gain from their tertiary education remains unchanged. They want to feel a sense of belonging, to feel supported through their journey, and to have control over their futures. Most importantly, they want to know their investment in a university degree will lead to a job after graduation.

Elissa states universities are still focused on email, website and text services while students prefer mobile, chat and video offerings. There is a disconnect with what students want, and what the universities are offering, and this brings about an interesting discussion.

What are some of the top universities doing?


RMIT University is using the following offerings for student engagement:

  1. Offering 24/7 student support instead of the typical 9-5
  2. Peer support as opposed to just academic support
  3. Alumni connections

Universities are focusing on student characteristics and how they like to engage, and these attributes align to completions etc.

Deakin Uni

Student Garden partnered with Deakin University to improve their current application experience for a student first approach to conversion. Similar to the Salesforce and Canva software that RMIT implemented, Student Garden supported Deakin with the development of a strategy to ensure their new application portal successfully integrated with their CRM and marketing automation platforms – being Salesforce and Marketo.

One of the key draw cards about Deakin are the huge range of services in place to support every aspect of the student experience to set them up for a bright future. Support services include one-on-one study mentors, career coaching, free online counselling, flexible online study options and childcare facilities to support a study-life balance around family, work and lifestyle commitments.

What does a global approach look like?

A question posed was “Are students approving marketing campaigns?”

The short of it, yes but not enough! We’re doing this at Student Garden, and this has allowed us to create more student first content. A prime example of this is our breakout campaign as Southern Cross University’s lead partner agency. But we are yet to see this happening as a standard process elsewhere.

The high growth of student acquisition through content creation across social media advertising successfully empowered non-school leavers to take back control of their future through study. The student acquisition campaign far exceeded expectations achieving a 42.86% year-on-year growth in applications during COVID-19, more than double the original campaign target.

“There has been a movement away from a set length degree, then working, then coming back. People want to dip in and out and have shorter experiences so they can move quickly into new roles or opportunities. Particularly in the domestic education space.” says Tom.

Different students are after different things, can we be everything for everyone and cater to what they need to get the most out of their education? In this day and age, universities need to build their reputation across a variety of social channels and offer services that will appeal to the global student.

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