What we know so far about Freshers 2020

For the student marketing community in the UK, Freshers is the biggest event of the year, but in 2020, there’s no doubt that it’s going to look very different from the norm. With around three months to go, we’ve compiled the latest info and insights from students and universities to give the most up-to-date picture of what to expect from Freshers 2020. Stay tuned for more updates as the story unfolds.

Will students be back on campus for Freshers?

Universities are still in the process of announcing their plans, but so far we know that most are planning to continue with at least some online learning. However, many are aiming for a combination of virtual and in-person classes. For example, Cambridge University will hold its biggest lectures online, making their larger lecture halls available for socially-distanced use by smaller groups.

While students with health conditions will have the option to study entirely remotely, universities are aiming to make it possible for students to return to campus. They have a strong incentive to do so since accommodation fees and tuition fees make up a large part of their income. They won’t be able to charge for accommodation if student halls aren’t in use, and student dropouts would affect income from tuition fees, so they’re looking at creative ways to enable students to have the best possible university experience without risking their health.

According to a briefing from Universities UK, one way that students may be able to return to campus is by living and studying within a “protected bubble.” This means they would live in halls segregated by degree subject, and while socialising with other students would be allowed outside of the accommodation, only residents would be allowed inside.

Two students sit together on campus.

How will the changes affect student numbers?

According to a survey of Student Beans users in June, 86% of students who were planning to start university in the autumn are still intending to do so. This represents only a small decrease since universities began announcing their plans, as the result was 88% when we asked the same question in early May.

This demonstrates that media reports about dropouts have been overblown, and those deciding not to attend are a small minority. Additionally, 79% of those who are no longer planning to start university this year say they will defer rather than drop out altogether, giving us an optimistic outlook on Freshers 2021.

Our findings are backed up by data from UCAS, which states that in fact more new undergraduate students have accepted a university place than the same time last year, and there are fewer students accepting a deferred place.

Will there be less international students attending university this year?

Due to travel restrictions, there will likely be fewer international students attending university in the UK this year. However, our June survey of Student Beans users found that most international students already enrolled in UK universities are hoping to return. Only 5% had changed their mind and decided not to come back to the UK. Therefore, the presence of international students will depend primarily on how strict travel restrictions are by September.

According to UCAS, 6% fewer international students have accepted offers for undergraduate degrees compared to this time last year, but there is in fact a 12% increase in students from outside the EU accepting places.

Two girls get to know each other during Freshers week 2019.

What will Freshers events be like this year?

With large public gatherings currently banned, it’s unlikely that large-scale Freshers Balls and Freshers Fairs will go ahead this year. However, universities are keen to ensure these events still take place in some form, as they enable students to bond with classmates and are an important rite of passage for new starters. Depending on how relaxed social distancing measures are by September, we could see smaller versions of these events organised for groups within each university, separated by faculty, hall of residence or interest groups.

Additionally, many virtual Freshers events are being organised, which means there are still plenty of ways for brands to reach students during the crucial first few weeks at university when they are making purchasing decisions in new brand categories for the first time. Student Beans will be taking our usual annual Freshers tour online with a virtual Freshers Festival providing many opportunities for students to discover new brands and get exclusive discounts on the products they want and need.

No matter the circumstance, Gen Z students are more creative and resilient than any other demographic and will make sure their unique Freshers experience will be one to remember.

Find out more about how you can partner with Student Beans to engage this year’s incoming students and help to give them a fantastic Freshers 2020.