5 proven ways to attract more diverse students

Nov 10, 2021 | Diversity

There are very practical changes you can make to your strategy to attract more diverse students, says ISE’s Tristram Hooley.

As we look forward to the ISE Diversity & Inclusion Conference 2021, taking place 17 and 18 November 2021, we take a look at some of the practical ways to increase the diversity of the cohort of students you attract.

1. Target under-represented groups

If you find that any group is under-represented in your applicant pool the obvious thing to do is to actively target that group.

Use social media micro targeting, visit institutions where they are well represented and engage with the media that they watch and listen to. You may find it useful to run outreach events aimed at particular groups.

It may just be that your message is not getting out to the under-represented groups and that making additional efforts will address this.

2. Change the universities, college and schools that you visit

Sadly, education in the UK remains strongly stratified by background. If you only visit private schools and elite universities you are likely to attract a far less diverse group of applicants.

Broadening or changing the places you recruit from will have a big impact. Running virtual events and increasing your use of social media will also help to broaden the range of students you can attract and engage with.

3. Use diverse staff in your marketing campaign

Who are the staff you are showcasing in your brochure or on your website? Who are the staff that are giving talks, attending careers fairs or welcoming virtual interns?

People tend to want to join organisations where they can see people like them and where they feel that they will fit in. If all the staff you use in marketing campaigns are white, male and middle-class, you will probably attract more of the same.

4. Work with advocacy groups, specialist consultancies, student unions and societies

If you are struggling to address inequalities in your recruitment approach you may need to involve someone else.

It is particularly difficult if you do not have any representation in your current staff. In this case working with an advocacy group or a diversity specialist might help you to understand what you are doing wrong.

Another option is to build a relationship with a student union or relevant student society and use this relationship both to help you to understand that community better and as a channel for engagement.

5. Change the balance of your recruitment away from graduates

If you are strongly focused on graduates you are inevitably dealing with the more privileged half of the population.

Whatever else you do to address diversity, if you only recruit graduates you will clearly have an organisation that is made up of people with one sort of educational experience. What is more, the people who attend higher education are not representative of the wider population and so this will skew your cohort further.

Given this, there are strong reasons to consider developing an apprenticeship programme aimed at school and college leavers as an alternative route into your organisation. Developing a different pathway into your organisation is likely to increase its diversity.


Find out more or register for ISE Diversity & Inclusion Conference 2021

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development

Read more advice and case studies from ISE’s Guide

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