CURRENT STRATEGIES FOR STUDENT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION IN FOREST ENGINEERING AND ENVIRONMENTAL-RELATED DEGREES IN MADRID (SPAIN)
The recent increases in tuition fees and the oversized academic offer of new degrees and universities throughout the Spanish territory prove to be a new challenge for the public university system. The economic crisis and declining rate of the youth population in recent years have aggravated the problem. The consequences was the decline of the number of new students, as well as the average knowledge threshold in new students. The situation was further aggravated by the high dropout rates in the first academic years, due to lack of vocation or the lack of prior information about the degrees, resulting in a loss of important economic resources to the already reduced university budgets.
In order to attract and retain students, universities must identify and meet student expectations. A proper student recruitment & retention program (R&R) is a time demanding task, but could lead to sustained financial solvency for the university in the future. Based in previous university programs in the USA, the following premises for the student recruitment & retention program were considered:
A) Recruiting programs and events.
(1) A Faculty/University theme and logo is required on all promotional stuff, such as Prezi/ PowerPoint presentations, videos, posters, brochures, etc.
(2) A wide, sustainable and strong R&R team should be established. The presence of current students committed to the environment and the faculty activities is highly recommended.
(3) The strategy and the results should be verified by a specific committee (such as our Innovative educational projects developed in the UPM in the last years).
(4) The first step to increase the retention rate begins with recruitment of interested prospective graduates and the quality of student/faculty interaction.
(5) The importance of the participation in developed training programs of every group of personnel within the faculty.
B) Tutorial actions:
(6) The requirement of a close tutorial program that should be designed and developed to provide an accurate communication and strengthening between student and advisor is recommended too;
(7) The high quality of the tutorial action contributes to increase student retention;
(8) The students’ performance should be continuously supervised by a specific committee of departmental supervisors in order to detect the lack of success.
C) Social media and community management:
(8) The social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) should be used to the fullest extent possible. They are the basic source of information employed by the prospective graduates.
(9) The recruitment program should be enhanced by different kind of events, such as Photo contests and merchandising.
D) Main premise:
(10) As a kind of corollary, the former premises should provide the required advise (tutorials), information, orientation and goals, as much ethically and honestly as possible. Otherwise, the retention effect would be seriously affected, decreasing drastically.
We believe that visiting our installations — whether that's coming to campus or visiting with our students and staff at various events — could be the best way to learn more about the Forest Engineering and Environmental-related degrees at the ETSI Montes, as well as the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) academic offer. Detailed examples of the activities developed during the R&R program are given and their results are provided.