How a strong alumni network can enhance the student experience.

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Incus Partners recently presented at the Tertiary Access Group conference in Melbourne on the topic of ‘How a strong alumni network can enhance student experience. Here are some of our key takeouts…

Alumni value

Alumni have the potential to an education institution’s most valuable asset. There is significant opportunity for universities, tafes and colleges to leverage alumni to drive student engagement on a global scale. This not only adds value to the student experience and ultimately the institution, it also enhances the strength and engagement of the alumni network creating more satisfied international and local alumni over the student – alumni lifecycle.

 Alumni from day one

We recognise student pathways and the stakeholder landscape in higher education can be complex. Pathways for undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education are diverse. This challenges institutions when to define students as alumni? As demonstrated by global best practice, we define alumni from day one of the student journey. Defining students as alumni from day one is a welcoming and nurturing, facilitates deeper connection with existing alumni and enables a seamless transition to the post-study alumni community upon graduation or course completion.

How important is student experience?

Student experience and satisfaction is increasingly an important measure for success and a driver for choice for future students. The QILT survey measures student experience based on teaching quality, student support, learning engagement, learning engagement and skills development. Alumni network engagement has the potential to positively impact on these metrics, which in turn will lift student experience. Student experience is increasingly important as it not only impacts student enrolments and retention, it’s a point of difference in a saturated market for rankings, which are largely academic and research driven.

How can your institution can drive alumni-student engagement?

Segmenting alumni and students is important to create value, identify life-stages and needs and to drive meaningful and effective engagement.

Before delivering an engagement strategy, institutions need to articulate their value proposition for current students and the alumni community alike. Students and alumni have different needs as they progress from undergraduate student to mid career and advanced in their career.

There are many examples of global alumni institutions who are recognised for successfully integrating international and local alumni and student engagement, enhancing the student and alumni experience and value created to diverse student and alumni segments globally.

  • Value through connection: Harvard University provide students with access to their alumni portal using a “Harvard Key” from the day of commencement. This technology platform is integral part of the student-alumni integration experience, creating deep and meaningful connection, and exchange of information and discussion forums.
  • Career development: The University of California fostered a partnership between career services and alumni relations to enable students and alumni to expand corporate connections, enable career discovery and career seminars. “The partnership between career services and alumni relations will enhance the ability of undergraduates and graduate students to develop the skills, experiences, contacts and opportunities needed to define and achieve their career goals.”
  • Giving: The University of Manchester have a comprehensive giving strategy providing opportunities for alumni to give time to students and donate to student causes. This extends to campus volunteering, mentoring, community work, giving events, scholarships and class gifts.

How can institutions support international students and alumni?

A strategic alumni governance model, use of technology and the support of alumni chapters locally to balance on campus and off campus experience is essential in an environment where students are studying online globally or reside in regional areas. An institutions recognized for addressing this international need is Pennsylvania State University, running a large online global program with over 18K students. They support international and regional students with local Chapters to ensure that students who do not have access to a physical campus feel connected.

How can your institution better engage student and alumni?

  • We recommend as a first step institutions bring together key internal stakeholders to discuss this topic. Audit what strategies and programs are in place (centrally and locally), information and research gaps and opportunities to drive meaningful and informed student and alumni engagement strategies.
  • Map out your student and alumni customer journey and identify the pain-points or triggers for student and alumni engagement.
  • Conduct student and alumni research to ask what is important to these segments and to refine your institutions value proposition and segmentation model.

There is a compelling case to support how higher education institutions can design and implement strategies to leverage alumni networks to enhance the student experience. There are numerous case studies globally to support the impact on satisfaction metrics and value creation for students and alumni and strengthened alumni community as a result of this integration. Please contact us to have a conversation about how we can assist your institution meet your goals and achieve best practice student and alumni engagement to create value.

This piece is a reflection from the presentation ‘How a strong alumni network can enhance the student experience’ by Incus Partners at the 2018 Tertiary Access Group Campus Link conference held at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

 Incus Partners is a dedicated higher education consultancy, working with Universities, Tafes and Colleges to develop and deliver exceptional experiences that lead to life-long connection and lasting impact. Services include student and alumni experience, advancement and partnership development, strategic advisory and project consulting. To work with us email info@incupartners.com