Skip to Content

5 Trends in Higher Education Recruitment & Admissions in 2021

By George Alecou Valerkou January 12, 2021

The global pandemic has introduced new challenges for recruitment and admissions leaders in higher education. Institutions that have relied on international students to bolster enrolment are faced with closed borders and travel bans. On some occasions, it’s still unclear which of the technologies adopted over the last year will withstand the test of time. Shifting to digital has also proven to be a large hurdle for some to overcome. 

Others, though, have used these challenges as opportunities — shifting to digital has opened new avenues to engage with prospective students. Virtual open days — online events where prospective students can learn more about the university — have been very successful for institutions across Europe and the U.K. This can be largely attributed to higher education evolving to meet both the needs of students and the demand for digital-first experiences by building inclusive and diverse student cohorts over recent years.

In the U.K., the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shared some very promising figures for the current cycle: applications for the October deadline courses were up 12% compared to the previous year and institutions’ websites were seen as either important or extremely important in decision-making. Over 50% of applicants attended virtual open days and international interest from countries such as Ireland, Spain, and Cyprus has either risen or remained consistent. And these trends are repeated across Europe.

Desk with globe, books, and laptop

The landscape of student recruitment and admissions is changing across Europe and the U.K.

In The Changing Landscape of Student Recruitment, we identified five key trends impacting recruitment across Europe:

  1. The priorities and expectations of those entering higher education have risen exponentially.
  2. New business models, new styles of learning, and the redefinition of non-exclusive partnerships between providers have fuelled the competition for students’ attention and subsequent enrollment.
  3. The ability to demonstrate diversity is crucial.
  4. International students have become integral to the student population. 
  5. Rapid technological change demands a new level of agility.

Learn more about emerging trends in recruitment and admissions by attending our upcoming webinar on 26 January, where we’ll explore and discuss these questions and themes with industry experts.

Register Now

Taking these trends into consideration and adding the pandemic into the equation, the next logical questions on the minds of recruitment and admissions teams would be: “Has the perception towards institutions changed over this past year? If yes, how will this impact enrolment”?’s Global Higher Education Research Snapshot, a research report conducted with students and staff from the U.K., Spain, France, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and the U.S. uncovered an interesting find addressing the above: An institution’s pandemic response was cited as a major reason among non-returning students for why they chose not to enrol this past autumn.

In fact, 25% of students enrolling in a different university from a year ago said they were doing so because they disapproved of the way their previous university handled the pandemic. This number is a clear indication of how critical frequent and personalised communications with current and prospective students have become for recruitment and admissions teams.

While personalised communications are crucial, they are but only one component of a wider solution needed by recruitment teams to meet challenges presented, both by the pandemic and other factors. What is needed now is a solution spanning first interaction to enrolment, including driving applicant engagement in a personalised manner, streamlining application management and review, and enabling teams to work smarter with 360-degree visibility of prospective students.

Woman sitting on steps working on computer while wearing a mask

Trends show that frequent and personalised communications with current and prospective students is critical for recruitment and admissions teams.

The great news is that higher education institutions across the U.K. and Europe are responding positively to this demand with many exploring such solutions. Before making a decision, any institution must address a number of questions to ensure that the right solution has been chosen.

How can institutions use technology in new ways and guide prospective students on the journey from that first interaction to enrolment? How can they create personalised engagements at scale and in real time? How can they use data to inform decision making? How do they keep prospective students engaged digitally? And how can their recruitment teams adapt their strategies in 2021?

Want to learn more about how recruitment and admissions teams are using technology in 2021 to inform decision making, drive student engagement, and personalise communications?

Join for a webinar on 26 January where we’ll explore and discuss these questions and themes with industry experts.

About the Author

George Alecou Valerkou, Product Marketing Manager, Higher Education, EMEA at

George is a Product Marketing Manager working in Higher Education for in EMEA. He joined the Salesforce Ohana in 2019 as part of the Product Marketing Management team for Marketing Cloud in EMEA. Prior roles focused on product and project marketing, marketing strategy, and consulting for companies including Google, Willis Towers Watson, Sky, Accenture, and Hitachi.