Skip to main content

University of Chester Graduate Outcomes case study

‘Be a smarty!’

The idea was to jazz up the approach that Careers and Employability - Student Futures took at graduation in order to draw attention to the importance of the Graduate Outcomes survey. We also wanted to promote the continued careers support available to University of Chester graduates up to two years after graduation.

This was achieved by the introduction of celebratory graduation Smartie scrolls which were a nice freebie to give away and were in line with the theme of graduation. It enabled us to wrap our promotional materials around the tube, rather than the leaflets being handed out alone and subsequently dropped or thrown away. With the inclusion of confectionery, we anticipated that there would be a higher percentage of leaflets which would be retained and we found that they were also used by individuals as useful props for those all-important graduation photographs.

Image of Smaries scrolls Image of Smaries scrolls Adam Crane at the graduation ceremony hold the smarties scroll

Where did the idea come from?
The idea was to find a fun, quirky and memorable way of interacting with our graduates, as well as being able to provide them with information (leaflets were wrapped around the scroll) when attending Northgate Arena in Chester. This is the venue where graduates collect their graduation gowns, have their official graduation photographs (taken by Ede and Ravenscroft) and are provided with the opportunity to interact with various colleagues from across the University including Careers and Employability, the Development and Alumni Relations Office, Chester Students’ Union and Corporate Communications, before attending their graduation ceremonies at Chester Cathedral. 

We came up with the idea after conducting some internet research and having given some thought to how we might be able to achieve the above while keeping costs to a minimum.

How did you put it into action?

What was the process? 
We used the pre-designed flyer (supplied by HESA as part of the promotional resources) and personalised it to include information about the services and support available through Careers and Employability. They were then wrapped around a tube of Smarties, secured and tied with a ribbon to represent a graduation scroll.

View University of Chester’s A5 leaflet
View University of Chester’s graduate scrolls 

How did you do it?
A team of Careers and Employability staff, including our Head, along with some colleagues from our wider Student Futures Department, created a production line of cutting, sticking, rolling and securing - which was great fun and a great team bonding exercise!

Was there any resource/cost implications?
The resource and cost implications included the cost of printing the flyers, the cost of the Smarties themselves, the cost of Sellotape and ribbon and the cost of staff time - although as it was an ‘all hands on deck’ approach the task was completed in a timely, effective manner. Colleagues from our wider Student Futures Department assisted with the making of the scrolls, along with one of our Student Volunteers who pitched in to help and from a student’s perspective thought that the scrolls were a fabulous idea.

What was the result?

What was the impact? 
Qualitative feedback was extremely positive from the graduates themselves, and colleagues in attendance on the day, and it is of course great to receive recognition from HESA that this has been picked up as an area of best practice.

What was the benefit?
The benefit of taking this approach at graduation this year was that we were able to interact and engage with a high number of graduates, to provide information about the Graduate Outcomes survey and the continued support from Careers and Employability following graduation. Over the four days, there were approximately 3,000 students graduating and we were able to reach approximately 60% of them with this initiative.

In previous years we have always had a presence at graduation, but with a mixed reception. This year, however, by being fun, quirky and by taking a different approach we were able to have more meaningful interactions and were able to convey our messages to a wider audience in an interesting and individual way.

Any feedback from students/graduates?
Graduates who received the graduation Smartie scrolls had nothing but positive things to say about their gifts on the day. There were many great comments which we overhead graduates making to their friends and family and we saw lots of graduates taking their own informal photographs holding their Smartie scrolls or allowing younger members of their family to hold their scrolls while donning their mortar boards, to mark this special occasion. 

Alongside the scrolls, we also introduced the use of speech bubble signs which had statements such as: Proud Parent, Proud Grandparent, Proud Partner, Proud Sister. We even saw a Proud Twin photograph being taken! The introduction of the scrolls and the speech bubble signs enabled us to boost our social media presence over the four days of graduation which was a great way for us to raise our profile, to get our messages across in an engaging way and to ensure that graduates are aware that they will be contacted about the Graduate Outcomes survey in fifteen months’ time. Also, that they are able to use the services of Careers and Employability, free of charge, for up to two years after graduation. 

Lessons learned

What would you do differently next time?
As we fell upon this idea at quite a late stage in planning our graduation presence, with the benefit of hindsight we would recommend that the purchasing of Smarties takes place much earlier to ensure that the number of tubes that you require are available. Other ideas we have in mind are:

  1. To develop the Smartie idea by introducing a strapline to encourage our graduates to keep in touch with us and also to keep their contact details updated: “Be a ‘Smarty’ and keep in touch with Careers and Employability”

  2. We would also like to purchase a pull up congratulations stand/back-drop which could be located near the Careers and Employability stands and table. This stand/back-drop would be branded to use Careers and Employability’s colours, would be a perfect back-drop for photographs to be taken against and could read something along the lines of: “Congratulations ‘Smarty Pants’ from all in Careers and Employability”. This coupled with our full-length mirror, branded with the wording: “Look towards your future career with Careers and Employability”

  3. Our supply of hair grips and safety pins, for those emergency gown and mortar board moments, would certainly make us prominent whilst still being on hand to assist with a variety of practical matters and wardrobe malfunctions!

Tell us a bit about your provider's approach to communicating Graduate Outcomes

At the University of Chester, we have a targeted communications plan in place for each of the four cohorts that will be surveyed though the Graduate Outcomes survey. We have been communicating with students about the survey via email before they leave the University and then again at 12 months, 6 months and 2 weeks away from the census week. We will also be posting on social media (e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn Alumni groups) as the survey opens. 

In addition to this, we also send out marketing communications reminding individuals of the services and support they can access as a graduate of the University of Chester. This is to ensure that graduates are made fully aware of this provision and it also ensures that we are not seen to be just contacting them solely to request for them to complete the survey.   

For those students still studying at the University, we promote the Graduate Outcomes survey on plasma screens across all campuses and we have 'zap stands' strategically placed at various locations across all our campuses. We also have the branding included as a rolling banner on the homepage of our intranet site.   

The Graduate Outcomes survey is also mentioned by Career Consultants when they are delivering sessions to final years, particularly emphasising that they as students would have benefited from previous students completing such surveys by using UniStats etc. Careers and Employability have also been working closely with academic departments to promote the Graduate Outcomes survey to their students by using subject-level TEF to highlight the importance of getting a high response rate.    

Contact details

Sally Harding, Employer Engagement Manager, Careers and Employability - Student Futures Department, University of Chester.

Role in Graduate Outcomes
Due to the nature of my role, I am not directly involved in co-ordinating any Graduate Outcomes survey related activity at the University of Chester. The main contact at the University of Chester would be my colleague Mark Parry - Employability Data Intelligence Co-ordinator.