Students want more effective communication. What can you do to help?

It’s increasingly clear that students are looking for more effective communication from their universities. Without the in-person connections that have always been intrinsic to the student experience, students are questioning the value for money their time at university offers.  

According to the Student Academic Experience Survey 2021, the lack of consistent, individually-tailored communication is a primary concern. The survey reports that 42% of students ‘would like more personalised communications from their institution’, with 39% saying they’d benefit from ‘more reminders/alerts and frequent emails’. Overwhelmingly, it found nine out of 10 students wished their institution communicated with them more often.  

Why does effective communication matter more this year?

The lack of physical interaction, a sense of belonging and feelings of isolation were common concerns for students studying during the pandemic. Not only has this affected student satisfaction but there are long lasting impacts on wellbeing as well. In fact, the absence of in-person opportunities has been identified as the single academic factor that has most impacted students who are looking for more opportunities to feel more engaged and less isolated.  

In recent studies, 76% of students reported that maintaining their wellbeing remains a challenge and Salesforce cites mental and emotional health concerns as the primary reason students are considering leaving their course. The Student Academic Experience Survey 2021 also found that students were lacking that sense of personal communication, stating they’d have appreciated an individual check-in from their tutors during the pandemic.  

However, it is increasingly clear that effective communication is more about quality, rather than the quantity. As one respondent explained: ‘I would just appreciate a phone call once a semester to check that I’m okay’. And the impact is far reaching with 59% of students claiming that the gap in trust between students and leadership is due to a lack of consistent communication. 

What can universities do to improve communication for their students?

Use engagement analytics for precision outreach 

It’s more important than ever to be proactive. Student engagement data will provide individual daily insights to identify who may be disengaging and engagement trends that inform conversations and direct the most relevant advice and guidance, when and who to target your support.  


Students are looking for authenticity, transparency and closer relationships. The more you know about your student and the more they know about you the easier it will be to make a connection and tailor to their needs. In the interest of scale and resource, use automation and look for common themes that group students in order to target tailored content, regularly and on mass. 

Choose relevant communication channels 

Define preferred methods of communication. This works both ways, what channels do your students prefer to use and how students can communicate with you? This may also change depending on the nature of the message for example, text or messaging apps may be most useful for notifications and alerts, whereas email is good for messages containing more detail and telephone works well for more urgent outreach. The key here is to make sure everyone knows what to expect. 

Supporting academic tutors to be successful

Communicating effectively will be challenging for tutors this academic year as student numbers rise. Many continue to navigate this new hybrid model of teaching and learning and their role evolves to support a diverse range of student needs. It is important that tutors are equipped with the right tools to communicate at scale, at the right time and create more meaningful interactions with their students. 

Optimising communication strategies should be a priority for universities to build back trust, confidence and personal relationships in order to meet student expectation and support their success.   

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