Enhancing the Student Experience

What happened?

We developed tools and improved our communications to attract students who are a good fit for the University; developed policies that supported the University's commitment to fair and transparent admissions and to the promotion of equality and diversity.


We aimed to:
Enable greater self-selection by prospective applicants early in the application process; and encourage more purposeful applications from a diverse range of students best equipped to benefit from the Edinburgh experience.
Develop admissions policy and practice that supports the University’s commitments to fair and transparent admissions. 

Why was this important?

Attracting students with resilience, time management skills and determination would give us an optimal platform from which to help students develop graduate attributes. It would also allow us to engage with a virtuous spiral in terms of student experience, as we would attract students who will enjoy the experience of being at the University of Edinburgh and would thrive here.

Student Support Review, Dr Sue Rigby, April 2012

What was delivered?

  • A research project was conducted in the autumn of 2013 to analyse the University pre-application and application experience. This provided an evidence base to inform the direction of pilot projects.  
  • 11 pilot projects were delivered from March 2014 - July 2015. Nine were University-wide and two were subject-focused, but with relevance across other subject areas. A range of approaches were used which sought to articulate the 'authentic student voice', assist students to make more informed choices, and better inform potential applicants about the Edinburgh experience.
  • A new post of Policy and Project Manager was created and embedded in Student Recruitment and Admissions to develop and implement new and revised admissions policies and procedures, supported by face-to-face and online training, to ensure compliance, consistency, and innovation. 


Pilot projects

The aim of this part of the Applicant Experience strand was to develop University-wide and subject specific pilot projects based on the findings from research. 

  • Capturing the under-and postgraduate student experience - three projects were delivered under this theme along with video best practice guidelines:
  1. Student created video clips on the Edinburgh student experience
  2. Twelve short video clips of Edinburgh students and four of staff  to communicate the Edinburgh experience and provide a realistic picture of the services Edinburgh provides to students 
  3. Video clips to articulate the pedagogy and benefits of different teaching/learning methods at Edinburgh
  • A template toolkit for University Open Day speakers
  • A briefing paper which explored the relationship between pre-entry qualifications/student characteristics and on programme performance
  • An informational resource for school students’ advisors on the Edinburgh student experience
  • A degree structure repository for the undergraduate print and online prospectus
  • Postgraduate student profiles
  • Advice to better articulate entry requirements and selection criteria
  • Articulating what an Edinburgh degree involves (case study UG Mathematics) through an online diagnostic tool


Although the role of Admissions Project Officer was not mainstreamed, the legacy of this work continues. Numerous outputs continue to be actively used and have been embedded into the University’s website, Youtube site, promotional materials, and recruitment presentations. Other templates and tools developed as part of this work also continue to be used. There is also evidence of valuable alternative uses of the resources generated from this work. Examples include: repurposing video and photography content and the use of video stills and quotes in Student Recruitment and Admissions presentations. 

Admissions policy and practice

Revising and developing new policies that support the University's commitment to fair and transparent admissions - to enhance the applicant's experience, and promote equality, diversity, and widening participation.

Key achievements include:

  • A revised policy for applicants with declared medical conditions and impairments was approved. Briefing sessions were held for undergraduate and postgraduate admissions staff.
  • A new undergraduate policy for adult returners to higher education was approved.
  • Overarching equality impact assessments were completed. These covered activities, policies and procedures relating to the applicant experience through the Pre-application and Application stages.
  • A new policy for the recognition of prior learning  was approved.
  • A new undergraduate policy for the admission of elite athletes was approved

Over the time span of this project strand a total of seven new admissions policies were introduced and three further policies reviewed and changes agreed. Four generic equality impact assessments were completed. New admissions policy related training has been delivered to School and College staff and an online training module introduced; advice and guidance has been provided for admissions staff and others on policy implementation and legislative compliance. The post holder also assumed management of Edinburgh's admissions appeals service. In addition, four presentations on this work have been delivered at Scottish and UK higher education events.


The reach and buy-in to new policies and practices developed via the project was greater than in the past as a result of meaningful and effective consultation with staff during the development phase. The project has also enabled greater focus on the roll-out of policy and practice, which has strengthened awareness, understanding and compliance, and ensured a more consistent applicant experience. The role of Policy and Project Manager was mainstreamed by Student Recruitment and Admissions in 2015/16.

The approaches to impact evaluation adopted by the applicant experience project are being mainstreamed in SRA, to enable us to better plan, evaluate and enhance activity, demonstrate impact and target resources effectively.

Direct admissions review

This was completed over the summer of 2013 and identified a number of ways in which the experience of applicants applying directly to the University could be improved. A number of projects have now been set up to implement the review's recommendations.

Key achievements included:

  • Introduction of new EUCLID workflow and screens for postgraduate admissions with support programme and associated training to assist with implementation.
  • Development of postgraduate admissions policy and procedure which was approved in September 2014.
  • Development of online training module: Postgraduate Admissions - the legal and policy framework.

Want to know more?

Keep up to date with this area of work on the wiki.