Leeds Beckett University is a winner of Times Higher Education's Outstanding Digital Innovation of the Year award

Leeds Beckett ISC students in a common area on campus at Leeds Beckett University.
Leeds Beckett’s use of smart technology to help students get into university scooped this year’s Outstanding Digital Innovation of the Year prize at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMA).

The University created “Becky”, a chatbot which supported the University’s Clearing recruitment campaign.

Using technology for your benefit

The team built “Becky” over two months to answer questions students might feel uncomfortable asking University staff on the phone during Clearing. Clearing is when applicants contact universities to see if they can find a place on a course if they missed out on an earlier offer.

The bot analysed keywords students used to help them decide what degree they would like to do. It then requested more information about their grades and exam results before making a provisional offer.

The THELMA panel recognised Leeds Beckett’s work as “a bold innovation successfully applied in a high-stakes environment.” They said: “We liked the way that a technology that had worked in other sectors was transferred to higher education at Leeds Beckett.”

Becky made 215 offers to 191 people, with 89 of them accepting a place at Leeds Beckett University. The University verified all of them to make sure student details were correct.

Supporting your university choices

The University first wanted Becky to help students with their decision-making when it came to accommodation, scholarship and student support. Its creators saw that the chatbot could do more.

Dougal Scaife, Head of Digital Experience and Engagement, said: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends such as Snapchat, WhatsApp as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that’s ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them.”

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