In early 2021, Jesus College Oxford announced a new access and outreach initiative to increase the representation of British Bangladeshi and Pakistani students at top universities. Led by Matthew Williams (Access Fellow), Jesus College appointed Union Spaces as an online community partner to facilitate the initiative. Union Spaces was deployed to support three core aims:
Accommodate an online community of 500 students and their parents/carers and teachers in an always-on experience, allowing them to participate in discussions and create connections with one another in a safe and meaningful way.
Host the virtual events including live sessions, participant-led workshops, and text chat on event days.
Be an always-on experience that the users could keep referring back to and engaging with each other peer to peer. Host a range of support materials, videos, content for them to help increase knowledge and build confidence in their decision-making process.
In consultation with Jesus College, a tailored instance of Union Spaces was implemented to reflect both the brand of the College and also the needs of the community of students.
Community groups were created on the platform to meet the needs of the audience and the schedule of planned events and activities. Group types included subject-led groups to practical groups focusing on applying, living, studying at university. All activity within the platform takes place within these discussion groups from hosting of live sessions, forum discussions, 1:1 or small group participant-led sessions which provide simplicity for all. This approach allows the college to gain insight into the needs/behaviour of the users via the Union Spaces insights dashboard. In the first six months of the programme, over 40% of students have joined over half of the community groups on the platform.
To formally commence the programme, the college hosted a virtual Open Day afternoon which saw 433 attendees (or 88% of invited attendees) participate at the virtual event, over the course of the programme with an average time of 14m 44 sec spent at the event. Designed to be an always-on experience, live sessions were recorded and added to the on-demand video library for users to visit whenever they need. Halfway into the programme, the team are already seeing great results.
Union Spaces provided exemplary customer support. I have never had so many pre-event support sessions with any other software platform.
The platform itself worked very well for our purposes and gave over the desired impression of seriousness of purpose, and professionalism.
I should like to recommend Union Spaces most highly to other education providers.
Dr Matt Williams, Jesus College, University of Oxford.
Union Spaces works by building a network of influence around your applicants, reinforced with every message exchanged, question answered, event attended and connection made, helping them feel the true sense of belonging and community which already exists at your institution.
We take a long-term approach to supporting your virtual student recruitment, including with hybrid events: working through the entire applicant cycle to establish and nurture relationships between prospective students and your institution, in a unified platform.
Our goal is to make the experience of virtual and hybrid student recruitment simpler – for both applicants and university staff alike.
If you would like to find out more about how Union Spaces works, please request a demo.
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Emma Darwin is CEO and Co-Founder of Union Spaces, a community-led technology that helps universities design virtual and hybrid student recruitment strategies, and an HE events consultant with her own practice advising universities around the world.