Seeking seekers in a positive sector

By Emma Johnson, Head of Marketing at Warwick Employment Group (

4 June 2024

Each year presents new challenges for the UK Higher Education sector, and 2024 is certainly no exception. It is understandable that students are always looking for more, delivered differently. They seek an increasingly personalised service, using the latest technology, which mirrors the advancements prevalent in their daily lives. 

While the dust settles following the recent MAC review announcement and there is some sense of relief after the government’s announcement on the graduate route, policy and media have undermined the UK’s appeal as a tertiary study destination, while funding remains stagnant despite inflation and cost pressures. Our institutions face unprecedented challenges. 

Amidst the testing turmoil it is important that we remind ourselves that universities are about people, and that people are our most important resource. Our universities are not just centres of learning and research, they are also some of the largest employers in the UK. There are more than 160 institutions scattered across the UK, from the centres of our cities to our remote rural areas. But do people know the breadth of what is on offer?

Professional services staff

Professional services staff support our academic colleagues, one another, and our students throughout their HE journey. They also keep our buildings in working order, manage our finances, promote our universities, provide health and safety and so much more. But are we, in the sector now, doing enough to attract the best applicants to these key positions, particularly as the pool of candidates is wider than the HE sector?

Do our job adverts demonstrate the vibrant communities that lie within those university walls? Is our application process accessible? Or are we making it difficult for outstanding professional services colleagues to join us and add value to our organisations?

Seeking the views of job seekers

Most readers are aware, part of Warwick Employment Group, is the largest specialised job board for HE in the UK. But many readers may not know that we survey jobseekers to understand their view on the job application process and what motivates them, to apply for a role. This has become a vital area of our work for our clients. The 2023 jobseeker survey noted that 28% of respondents do not feel job adverts contain all the relevant details and 21% are disappointed that job descriptions are poorly written. A further concern from the survey is that 58% of responding jobseekers are frustrated by the long application process. Surely these are things we can all work together to fix.

So, what are job seekers looking for? 66% of jobseekers are looking to work for an organisation that has a ‘reputation for being a great place to work’ and we know our universities are just that but are we shouting it from the rooftops?

Internal HE ambassadors  

At we are working with universities across the sector to break down these barriers and demonstrate the value of a career in HE. We have been working with many of you to create compelling campaigns to showcase that a career in Higher Education means more and you can see some of our work here. Many of our professional services colleagues have joined the sector from industry and it is clear to see that HE has ignited their passion for their profession and brought them a deep sense of purpose. ‘The difference, when working in HE, is that HE has clear values, it has a clear purpose and it’s something good’ this is just one quote from many.

We all need to be better ambassadors for our sector because universities are not about outdated images of silent libraries, often intimidating to those who may never have stepped onto a campus. They are vibrant communities shaping the future for graduates and the way we live. After all, where else can you proudly say you are part of a community driving cutting edge technology, pushing boundaries in research that could save more lives and help protect our environment, whilst supporting students to reach their potential. Shouldn’t we be inundated with applications?

If not, is it time to review our application process. We must ask ourselves how even just small changes could better open the applicant pool to more new talent. Are our job adverts short and concise? Do they outline the skills needed for the role? Is the application process accessible and do we need to remember it is a two-way process? What makes us different and interesting as a sector, as an employer and the role? Do you have a video you can include which demonstrates the culture and what it is really like to work on your campus? Let us share it for you on our social media, or we can even come and talk to your staff and showcase your university. 

We will continue to share our thoughts and progress with UCEA, who have demonstrated the importance in facts and figures behind their benefits of working in HE work and the importance of employee value propositions in recruitment and retention.  UCEA’s objective of improving the collective narrative for the sector as employers of choice chimes with our ongoing aims in this area. 

Universities offer professionals the opportunity to join a community like no other. There is a place for everyone in an environment that enables employees to be themselves and to thrive. Together we can ensure everyone knows that a career in HE means more opportunity, more living, and more purpose.