A baby throwing a book on the floor

Webinar Roundup: Rethinking the Prospectus

In this webinar, SMILE looked back on universities prospectuses and how that's changing to adapt for digital-first audiences.

We looked back on what universities have been doing over the last 20 years and how that’s changing to adapt for today’s market. We also looked at how digital can provide you with robust insight to make sure that your content is relevant.

If universities scrapped the prospectus completely, how long would it be before students didn’t know the what a prospectus is?

Matt Lees

We know that the prospectus hasn’t changed in decades, and even considering a change to the format can feel risky. But in this webinar, we showed that sectors outside of education are already doing this – and it’s yielding powerful results. Thanks again to Alexander Calder for sharing Student Pulse from Akero Data Labs – it’s an absolutely fantastic tool for understanding the prospect market. We asked some tough questions, and challenged the status quo – we hope you enjoyed it.

Oh, and our personal fav – The University of Kent Video Prospectus from the 1980’s! And how about those 2 young people trying to figure out a rotary phone 😂

You can find all of the resources that we mentioned below, including a full recording of the webinar.

The University of Gloucestershire Prospectus on three mobile phones

One of the topics of the webinar was the new prospectus from the University of Gloucestershire. We’re incredibly proud of the part SMILE has played in designing and developing a truly personalised experience, and we’re so excited to develop it further.

We’re keen to take our experience in building this, and helping other universities find their digital-first strategy for the prospectus format. Contact us →

SMILE runs webinars every two months on topics in the higher education, digital marketing arena. Join our mailing list to get notified about new webinars before anyone else.

Following on from the webinar, we asked the audience where they are in their journey to a digital first prospectus. The results were quite interesting. With 66% of those that responded to our poll stating that they’re either considering to, or beginning to build a digital-first prospectus… Are you falling behind?

A pie chart to show where our audience are on their journey to a digital first prospectus. Majority vote that they are thinking about it.


I am in a small team, we are committed to accessibility but do not have a digital prospectus. We have a limited amount of people and not all stakeholders are on board with it. I want to reduce how many prospectuses we print for sustainability reasons and put that money in developing a digital one. Of course we will still print some, and if anyone needs a braille version we would do that. But I feel as though I’m at a stalemate trying to go digital. Any advice?

There’s various things that can be done. We’ve obviously got the upfront insight and information that that serves like Akero can offer, but then we can go further than that too.

There’s prototyping tools that have come a long way in recent years. Now, you can even show those stakeholders what a digital perspective might look like and get them on board with that before it goes into build. We’re big fans of UXPin and this is something that we used in our project for the University of Gloucestershire.

How does Glouces digi portal work with the website – i.e. how does it avoid duplicating content?

It uses an API to get data directly from the web properties (we also built those) – we’ve written up an article on the process which you can view on our website.

After user signup, what does Gloucester’s portal use as the main CTA if all information is contained within it and they don’t need to visit the main website?

We know that users are going to the main website anyway, so we’re not trying to duplicate CTA’s like “Apply now”. Instead, we know that this exists right at the beginning of the recruitment process.

So they’re measuring, tracking and creating engagement opportunities. When you’ve created your prospectus, you’re encouraged to share it with your family and friends. You can start a live chat or ask a question to a specialist all from within the app. And in order to save your personalised prospectus, you have to sign up. All of this is contributing towards university owned, 1st party data – something we talked about the importance of in our last webinar.

Do Gloucester still hand out something tangible at their open events?

Nope, it’s been an incredible move for their sustainability, which they are now seen as sector leaders.

Does Akero Student Pulse have data on Colleges as well Universities?

The majority of the data is looking at prospective undergraduate students so they are the ones who are looking predominantly for universities and the majority that planning to go to university, but they do also have data from that age group that they’re looking at other channels. So whether they are looking at apprenticeships gains to straighten into work to gap years, there is that data available in the system as well.

Does the data you’ve used from Akero Student Pulse focus on UK students or does it represent international student views, perspectives and journeys as well?

So at the moment it is UK focused, they are UK students, and what they’re looking for. But what Akero is looking at broadening this out. Initially for students from the USA, but then much more globally around international students and their motivations and their thoughts, their feelings about applying for institutions across the world.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.