HHC combines strategy and AI to create a winning combination

The 2020 admissions environment was like no other for FE colleges across the UK as COVID-19 required rapid changes to the entire student recruitment process. Students everywhere were naturally apprehensive about what lay ahead and Hopwood Hall College wanted to tackle this head-on to make sure that all applicants felt fully prepared for the college experience.  Hopwood Hall joined forces with Purlos to add another layer to their engagement communications which would complement their existing applicant comms channels.

Purlos’s range of tools for monitoring, management and insight helped Hopwood enrol 59 more students than it did in 2019, earning the college a funding increase of over £300,000.

Since working with Purlos


student engagement rate

student queries resolved

An Immediate Success for Retention and Engagement

The key was the way Purlos engaged students, making proactive contact via WhatsApp, a platform that teenagers feel much more comfortable using than either email or telephone. Ross Black, Director of Admissions at Hopwood Hall College describes communication before Purlos as being “very much one-way traffic”, with the college sending out emails and letters with very little response.

However, since teenagers use WhatsApp and always have their phones with them, applicants responded fast, enabling Hopwood to become aware of issues and questions early enough in the admissions process to address them and secure the college as the applicant’s choice. Not only were applicants’ concerns satisfactorily addressed, the automation of this process freed up resource so that Hopwood could focus on addressing more specific or complex issues, rather than using its time addressing routine queries.

“The system pays for itself, even if you only get two or three more learners”
“I’m really impressed with the product. If you’ve got a plan in terms of how you’re going to utilise Purlos, then you will get your money’s worth out of it. I think it’s been invaluable.”

Ross Black

Director of Admissions

A Helpful, Adaptable Resource

Not only did Purlos help secure admissions and free up staff resource, it also worked to encourage retention. On top of the usual anxieties students have when they start at a new college, 2020 brought with it questions about what measures Hopwood would employ to create a COVID-safe environment. Purlos was able to respond to students’ queries and ensure that they could feel more comfortable from day one, with Black affirming that “I could use the system to alleviate those concerns well before they stepped into the college, and they were prepared to start”.

Lauren Wood, Hopwood’s Admissions Officer, feels Purlos’s messages to students made the college feel “welcoming – before they even start the course, they’ve been receiving messages, keeping the students engaged”.

Additionally, by proactively contacting students two weeks after term had started to enquire how they were settling in, the system was able to pick up students who were struggling in a range of ways, for example with finance, time-tabling or their chosen course, meaning that Hopwood was able to solve problems that could otherwise have led to students dropping out.

As Black says, “Knowing that people have those anxieties, and knowing who those learners are, we can then jump on it quickly and resolve it. And that will help retain our learners.”,  “We’ve had a lot of positive messages come back from the students, saying “Thanks for checking in”.

A Powerful Partnership with Purlos

Such has been the success of Purlos, Black is already using it for the 2021 admissions process, with the system sending messages on WhatsApp to follow up students who have failed to attend online information sessions for the courses for which they have applied and thus being able to establish whether or not they are serious about their application. It has also enabled Hopwood to identify technical issues some applicants have experienced with accessing these sessions, which Ross says “are starting to reduce now, because we’ve been able to nip them in the bud.”

Chosen as one of the first providers of T-levels and now set to offer new courses Sept 2022 (including digital health, science and early years). This is an exciting time for Hopwood Hall College. Together with Purlos the college expects another year of growth, expansion and all-round positivity.

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