The impact of pre-arrival surveys at Middlesex University

Lia Lawson from Middlesex University, with Bruce Johnson from evasys, provided an outstanding presentation during the evasys Data and Insights event that looked at the university’s ground-breaking approach to pre-arrival surveys.

Read our summary of the presentation below.

The pre-arrival process sets out to enhance institutional and student success

As part of an initiative to bridge the gap between students and institution to foster a more supportive and inclusive learning environment, Middlesex University created a pre-arrival survey process that truly engaged students from unconditional offer through to on-campus arrival.

The statistics and insights gathered on the back of the innovative pre-arrival approach led to swift actions and enhancements that positively impacted student arrival, engagement and belonging.

Overall, the new targeted, tailored approach to pre-arrival surveys provided unique insights that, when acted upon, made a significant impact on student success and institutional goals.  Some key insights, highlights and results of the survey process were:

  • There was a 67% response rate to the first pre-arrival survey

  • More than 63% of students requested information on employment opportunities

  • Personalised action plans were issued to students based on support information sought

  • Further information on the Student Union was the second highest request from students

  • Pre-arrival survey results informed planning for programme-specific academic induction

  • A *comparison carried out after five months shows that for students who completed the pre-arrival survey:

    • Enrolment rates were higher
    • Interruption rates were lower
    • Withdrawal rates were lower for postgrads and marginally lower for undergrads
    • Students deciding not to start at the university were lower

*full analysis to understand statistical significance to be undertaken


First pre-arrival survey response rate

Read on for a more detailed narrative of the approach taken by Middlesex University, and the outstanding results achieved.

A change in approach and a joined-up survey process

Middlesex University had been stuck in a rotation of going through an admissions cycle, beginning the induction process and then asking students how they felt after the event.

Recognising that the aim should be to connect the admissions process with pre-arrival and with continued success and outcomes, the institution introduced pulse surveys throughout the applicant journey over a period of three years. The university wanted to measure impact, gain and growth through pre-arrival, welcome and end of year surveys, and then all the way to graduation and beyond.

The pre arrival process that enhanced institutional and student success Middlesex University case study

The university was already using evasys to manage the module evaluation process and recognised the opportunities to join up the pre-arrival, welcome and induction and module evaluation surveys and link them all with the student information already held within evasys.

With this in mind, Bruce Johnson from evasys provided active and engaged support to help the welcome team to develop a pre-arrival survey within evasys. With the Students’ Union also running surveys for arriving students, staff from there assisted in the creation of the pre-arrival survey to ensure that students were only being asked questions once.

A tailored email was issued to students on their personal email addresses and reminders were only sent out to those who hadn’t already completed the survey.

Finally, there was now an opportunity to triangulate student responses with any future surveys that students completed.

Targeted, tailored feedback to students

Using evasys meant that, with every student response received, it was easy to provide instant feedback, tailored to that individual. Closing the feedback loop straight away provides a positive impression of the institution to incoming students, letting them know that their voices are heard.

Personalised emails linking to the pre-arrival survey went out to 3,900 UF offer holders and the completion rate was extremely impressive – 67%. The data provided strong, valid insights and showed that students were excited and already connected with the university.

The survey aimed not only to find out what students were feeling and thinking, but to commence a baseline measurement of their levels of confidence that could be linked from one survey to another as they progressed through their student journeys.

When asked what they would like more information on, 2,471 students asked about employment opportunities, with the second highest request being around the Student Union. Targeted responses went out to each student pointing to the information request.

The survey also informed planning for academic inductions by providing specific programme leaders with the information on what the students needed by way of support, and what information they are requesting. Academic colleagues picked this up and signposted students accordingly.

Overall, every bit of insight gleaned from the pre-arrival survey is a potential intervention that is targeted, tailored and absolutely relevant to the individual student.

The positive impact of the new pre-arrival survey system

A huge number of insights and actions came to light in the wake of the pre-arrival survey.

On employment opportunities, the Employability Team launched a targeted campaign to provide students with more information on accessing the service, tips on how to gain part-time work and then, at programme level, identified which areas of the university, by subject area, had students that were the keenest about employability. The team are now making connections with faculty to start embedding employability activity.

Linking with the Students’ Union meant that survey insights informed the planned SU induction events and guided the team there to think about where academic communities could be more successful.

Middlesex university students

And working with programme teams, using the unique student identifier can bring in demographic information to start to build a new cohort-specific level of support based on student needs and insights.

The pre-arrival survey questions were set up around confidence and importance placed. Around eight weeks after this survey, the programme induction survey was launched and repeated specific questions to gauge impact or gain between the surveys. Results showed an increase in confidence for questions such as “knowing what’s expected of me at my level of study”. The results also allowed the mapping of other types of data, including the university meeting initial expectations or satisfaction with the welcome and programme induction. The team were also able to make links between whether students participated in the transition programme or attended an SU activity. All of this builds an excellent profile of how engaged the students are.

As progress is made through the academic year, pre-arrival survey results will be linked to progression outcomes in June, as well as continuation and re-enrolment in September. The Middlesex team will then consider how it might feed into a programme-level journey dashboard that provides a combination of lead and lag indicators, to support student continuation.

More generally, the process of issuing a pre-arrival survey creates a culture of survey completion, engaging students, closing the feedback loop and resulting in higher response rates as they move through the student journey.

For further detail, view the Middlesex University resources from the evasys Data & Insights event:

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For further detail, view the Middlesex University resources from the evasys Data & Insights event

Share This Case Study!