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Building an Inclusive Student Recruitment Service at the University of Nottingham

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Being able to accurately forecast student numbers and recruit students is vital for the financial health of any university. As such, universities must look beyond how student recruitment teams operate to consider how the wider ecosystem across functions can be nurtured to support overall recruitment ambitions.

'I really enjoyed working with Strive Higher. They had a deep understanding of the environment in which we are working and worked with the team to deliver the outputs needed. It felt like a real collaboration, not something being delivered to us by an external company.'

-Rachel Atkin, Director of Student Recruitment

The brief:

Having made a significant investment in a sector-leading approach to digital marketing and student recruitment, the University of Nottingham (UoN) set out to reinvent and modernise the student recruitment experience to continue to attract the brightest and best students. This new approach was underpinned by a focus on ensuring excellent customer service, better use of data to inform decision-making, and providing staff with the right skills and tools to deliver an outstanding service.

Strive Higher was invited to facilitate development of a target operating model for the revised student recruitment function with a view to: 

  • Creating the appropriate target composition of the student body to ensure institutional ‘size and shape’ aims as well as the wider quality, access, and financial aims, 

  • Demonstrating a significant impact on the institution’s aims to become sector-leading for attracting under-represented groups, 

  • Fostering a sense of belonging that generates a ‘pull’ towards Nottingham,  

  • Building a strong sense of shared commitment between the Student Recruitment functions across the university. 

Our approach:

We took a holistic view of the entire student journey with each of its engagement points to inform the operating model and raise staff understanding of the student experience across roles. Through a process of co-creation and consultation, we supported development of a target operating model blueprint and a high-level roadmap for implementation. The blueprint informed development of the operating model, ensuring it was underpinned by a coherent organisational model that teams and stakeholders understand, and which clarifies accountabilities and responsibilities across functions to optimise contributions. 


Our approach also consisted of capacity-building. To smooth transition to the new model, we supported UoN with a change management framework, team capacity-building and surfacing implementation considerations. This included supporting their understanding of how desired outcomes could be communicated to stakeholders and effectively realised. 


UoN now has an improved student recruitment operating model that is clear in what services and outcomes it will provide, a better understanding of organisational interdependencies, and a strong change narrative to support implementation. They are also aware of the capabilities and changes to teams and ways of working required to implement the target operating model and are equipped with a governance framework to monitor ongoing success. 


  • An enhanced and robust operating model for University of Nottingham’s student recruitment function 

  • A revised service model with clarity regarding organisational interdependencies  

  • A strong change management narrative and rationale to support implementation

Read more about our Education & Student Experience and Transformation & Change service offerings.


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