Tell us more about yourself and your company’s success taking UK and US universities online?
Dr Nicolaou: After spending several years running traditional universities I set up Unicaf in 2012 supported by major funding from CDC, Edex and Goldman Sachs. My mission then was – as it is today – to meet society’s critical needs, and to make higher education more connected, relevant, affordable, accessible, and sustainable. Now the leading provider of education technology in Africa and beyond for UK, US and African university partners, we build, market, deliver, and support more than 60 undergraduate and postgraduate partnership programmes across the career curriculum continuum. Together with our university partners, we have positively transformed the lives of more than 30,000 students.
So what exactly do you offer higher education clients keen to go online?
Dr Nicolaou: We work closely with universities to develop custom-made services and solutions that include: market strategy and research; marketing and enrolment; technology, program design and conversion; and institution-wide support, covering the entire student journey. Our comprehensive cloud-based digital platform of tightly integrated technology and services provides the digital infrastructure that universities need to recruit, enrol, teach and support students at scale. Using Unicaf ’s state-ofthe- art digital platform students are able to study anytime anywhere regardless of their family or professional commitments.
You also work with universities keen to extend their reach beyond their native country – tell us about that.
Dr Nicolaou: Yes that’s right. Unicaf provides the opportunity to its partner universities to extend access to high quality education internationally, thereby fulfilling their missions by improving outcomes, skills attainment, and career prospects for a greater number of students.
Tell us about the technology behind this platform?
Dr Nicolaou: We use the latest technology and innovative tools to enhance the effectiveness of instructional methods and improve the student learning experience. Our digital platform is essentially an integrated ecosystem of technology, people and data. Through the platform Unicaf provides a range of services from the time a student clicks on an advert until the time the student graduates. We offer our partners a range of services which are tightly integrated and optimised with data analysis and AI technologies including:
- Marketing: We engage with market strategy and programme planning through extensive research to identify demand, market opportunities, and potential challenges in order to design or adapt programmes to respond to demand
- Recruiting and enrolment: Unicaf has years of experience in the recruitment and enrolment of qualified students. It operates 12 call centres across the world which process student applications generated by its digital marketing activities. The engagement and advanced analytical techniques we use ensure that each candidate who applies is sufficiency qualified, understands the learning commitment, and is dedicated to successfully completing the programme of choice
- Admissions using the partner’s entry requirements
- Digitisation services and programme development: We are able to convert taught programmes into an online format using our team of expert instructional designers using a variety of tools to create engaging and transformational learning experiences
- Delivering high quality education offerings to students anywhere in the world, while maintaining their academic rigor and admissions standards
- Student data and reporting
- Analytics using the latest technologies
- State-of-the-art technology
- Compliance with regulations
- Learning resources for students including e-books, digital library services etc
- Learning technology including hybrid options
- Our Virtual Learning Environment is used to deliver the partner’s academic programmes to students, to monitor student’s engagement, to measure programme effectiveness and to improve learning outcomes
- Student support services: Academic, financial and technical. Our student support services provide non-academic advisory services to prospective students prior to enrolment which help improve retention rates.
Why do universities partner with you and what makes you so attractive?
Dr Nicolaou: That’s a good question. They partner with us for a variety of reasons, namely:
- Zero financial risk: Unicaf makes all the necessary investment in terms of marketing, recruitment delivery and technology. Unicaf makes a significant investment for each of its partners to enhance their brand and to recruit thousands of students on partnership programmes
- We provide a turnkey solution which covers all aspects of an online offering including the digitisation of academic material, the marketing and recruitment and the delivery of the online programmes
- Our marketing and recruitment capabilities are second to none and we invest millions in the promotion of our partners and the programmes offered through the partnership
- Relentless focus on quality
- Flexibility in the delivery which allows students with family and professional commitments to continue with their education
- Access to international markets. Unicaf has a proven track record in the recruitment of thousands of students from all over the world
- Access to state-of-the-art technology
And finally, tell us about your plans for the future?
Dr Nicolaou: We are, and will be, focussed clearly on helping universities worldwide to brave the storm presented by Covid-19 – helping them to successfully operate online, to meet the expectations of today’s tech savvy millennials using our instructional designers to improve the quality of their teaching and learning materials, retain their student cohort and most importantly underpin their financial stability.
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