Understanding the needs of alumni
In Q4 2023, the European Foundation for Management Development, along with the UK-based market consultancy group CarringtonCrisp, released the findings of their ‘Alumni Matters’ study on the needs and potential of graduates. According to CarringtonCrisp, “Schools miss out on opportunities not just to build fundraising, but to better engage corporates, to support their recruitment of new students and to attract alumni to return for further study, to create potential providers of internships and guest speakers and much more.” As such, the Alumni Matters survey, which will be conducted again in August, seeks to elaborate on what alumni desire from a school with the purpose of creating recommendations for plans of action to better appeal to this demographic. As Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences is continuing to develop its lifelong learning opportunities, the study provides important insight and takeaways for all business schools looking to serve former students.
The latest Alumni Matters survey collected answers from 2,489 alumni across 82 countries. The vast majority of alumni (88%) are proud to be associated with their schools, while 87% have positive feelings toward their former schools – Wittenborg knows its family members easily fall into this category. Despite this, just over half (54%) said they were still connected to their schools, and 49% considered themselves part of an alumni community. In the report, it is noted that when alumni are not sufficiently engaged nor made to feel they are part of a school's success following graduation, they are more likely to seek opportunities outside the school's network to grow their careers. The survey found that nearly half (48%) of alumni would like their alma mater to offer further learning opportunities following graduation.
CarringtonCrisp's co-founder and author of the study, Andrew Crisp, explains in an interview that this may have to do with the fact that alumni may trust their former school, thus making it an ideal place for further learning, reskilling or upskilling opportunities. Interestingly, despite the desire for continued learning, 51% of respondents said they are currently unaware of the opportunities available to them. This means that many schools are not engaging with alumni or marketing post-graduation opportunities sufficiently. Furthermore, 42% agreed that lifelong learning amongst alumni is a big opportunity for business schools. The report recommends that institutions increase access to resources and networks among alumni to create more mutual value between alumni and themselves.
Supporting alumni pays back
Importantly, one in five alumni stated they had supported their former schools in some way within the previous 12 months, up to November 2022 when the report was created. That could be financially, but also by promoting their school to recruiters and prospective students, offering internships, volunteering or providing student mentoring. Around 65% expressed interest in mentoring students, and 55% said they may provide internships, projects or paid work experience for current students. This means that investing in increasing opportunities for alumni can benefit business schools and even current students in the long run.
Of the ways in which an institution can support alumni, 70% responded that business schools should create lifelong learning programmes for alumni and 69% wanted online access to lectures and other content made by faculty, with the report indicated that some might be willing to pay for such materials. A further 53% thought alumni should get preferential rates for future studies or programmes at their alma mater. Respondents expressed a ‘strong preference’ (57%) for short, non-degree executive programmes. Novel qualifications are also becoming more popular, with 21% interested in digital badges, and another 18% looking for ‘microcredentials’.
The survey found that 53% of alumni say they want easier means to connect with other alumni, while 47% said that alumni should be offered more opportunities to take advantage of alumni networks. The study also highlights that alumni are interested not just in their careers, but also increasing the reputation of the schools which they are associated with; these aims have a mutually positive effect on one another. Interestingly for institutions such as Wittenborg, situated in a country whose cabinet is taking measures to reduce international study opportunities for public institutions, 34% responded that they want to grow global activities for alumni. The study reports that this is, “increasingly important as international student cohorts become ever more significant for business schools”.
“Engaged international alumni will be key to growing awareness, recognition and consideration of an institution among prospective students,” Alumni Matters 2022 reports.
by Olivia Nelson