Education Partnership North East’s (EPNE) Marketing CRM team was highly commended for its innovative student recruitment campaign at the 2024 Further Education First Awards.  

The only event dedicated to recognising marketing achievements within the FE sector, the FE First Awards – run by the College Marketing Network (CMN) – showcased the exceptional efforts of colleges and sixth forms across the country. 

The team was shortlisted for the Communications Campaign Award, which was won by LTE Group, at a ceremony at the Crowne Plaza in Birmingham. 

Recognising the landscape of student recruitment has evolved significantly over recent years and that traditional methods no longer capture the attention of school leavers, the CRM team conducted extensive market research to create an innovative student-led communications campaign. 

After careful consideration, it was evident there was a need to redefine the marketing team’s approach, with SMART objectives identified and implemented to develop an ‘above industry-standard’ engagement platform for students. 

Harnessing Gecko Engage’s dynamic and personalised email builder – widely used in the Higher Education sector – as well as 30+ years of experience in education recruitment and a data-driven and insight-led approach, the team developed impactful and relevant email, targeted SMS, and segmented telecentre communications. 

The results were outstanding, with group-wide recruitment targets being exceeded for the first time, a 104% increase in Experience Event bookings, and communications receiving high satisfaction rates. 

Stephen Welsh, Head of CRM, Insight, and Reporting said: “We are thrilled to be highly commended at the FE First Awards in the Communication Campaign category. It underscores the importance of integrating CRM, insights, and reporting to craft campaigns that not only engage but also deliver measurable impact. 

“This accolade reinforces our commitment to excellence and innovation in our field.” 

Gilly Gosling-Bell, Director of Marketing and Engagement added: “I am delighted that our team has received national recognition. This is a testament to their dedication to innovative, data-driven communication strategies.”  

The FE First Awards, hosted by the CMN each year, is a nationally recognised event to celebrate the amazing work achieved by colleges and sixth forms from all over the UK and is supported by businesses who believe in and support the education sector. 

Emma Wilde, Executive Director at the College Marketing Network, said: “It was a fantastic event celebrating the amazing marketing professionals that work so hard in the further education sector, which is always an honour. 

“These marketing teams do an incredible job on tight budgets, and for anyone outside the sector, it’s actually a very complex and high-pressure industry to work in, with multiple target audiences and complex funding.” 

The College Marketing Network, now in its 37th year, offers support to marketing teams in the further education sector across the country. Members benefit from free workshops, peer support, best practice sharing with fellow marketers, online resources, and an annual conference. The FE First Awards, established over 20 years ago by the College Marketing Network, remains the only awards event dedicated to marketing in the further education sector.

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19