The University of Adelaide has launched its second chatbot which is designed to help double the number of international students enrolled at the higher education institution within the next five years. 

That growth requires new ways of thinking about recruiting and handling student inquiries, says Catherine Cherry, The University of Adelaide’s director of prospect management. 

“The university has an agenda to double in size in the next three to five years, and it is likely that the inquiry team will not double in size along with that. So we have no choice but to find ways to optimise really, really rapidly,” Cherry told Which-50.

To reach more potential international students and solve a major pain point, the university launched a chatbot in July which can assess an international student’s eligibility to study at the university. 

“We knew that we wanted to deploy a lot more self service and automated service for our international prospects, and the biggest problem that they had was this question around eligibility,” Cherry explained. 

Previously, the service centre couldn’t tell prospective international students if they were eligible to study for a course. Instead they had to pay $100 application fee to apply before they would find out if they were even eligible.

“The most important question that anyone will ever ask us was just a constant source of negativity and a constant pain point,” Cherry said. 

The bot is now able to quickly crunch the numbers and provide users with an answer. As of September, the International Pre-Application Eligibility Assessment Chatbot had been used by more than 5,500 unique users. 

Over 60 per cent of the chatbot users are eligible or eligible with a pathway to apply, Cherry says, which opens up new opportunities to get students to apply faster. 

“Most international students make three to four applications. Moving prospects along that journey much faster than competitors are able to gives us an enormous competitive advantage.” 

The university recently retired its first chatbot, which calculated students’ adjusted ATARs on the day they received their results. The bot allowed the university to handle twice as many requests as usual but was ultimately made redundant because the tertiary admissions centre now delivers the adjusted ATAR alongside the raw ATAR, removing the problem the bot was introduced to solve. 

Both chatbot implementations were built on the Oracle Digital Assistant with Oracle partner Rubicon Red. 

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in discussions around implementation of chatbots, and customers are also looking to understand how they can take advantage of an AI and machine learning,” says John Deeb Director and Co-founder, Rubicon Red.

“Part of the challenge is not implementing a chatbot for the sake of it, but thinking through the value.” 

Both of the bots deployed by The University of Adelaide were conversational tools designed to help prospective students achieve a particular task. Cherry said the university would consider using chatbots again in the future when the bots could solve pain points that are affecting large portions of its customers. 

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