Top 7 CRM Systems for Higher Education in 2020

Graduates throwing mortarboards in the air

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 23 September 2020

What can CRM software do for your enrolment, admissions, and student retention efforts? Read on to find out, and compare quotes from top higher education CRM providers in the UK


Pro:X Con:Best for: 
Full FabricDesigned solely for the needs of higher educationAnalytics and reporting leave a bit to be desiredAlumni and student relationship management
Salesforce Education CloudBest-in-class data analyticsExpensiveThird-party education software integrations
RadiusTop-notch workflow automationsSteep learning curveAdmissions management
Maestro by BocaVoxImpressive customer approval ratingsDated interfaceStudent communication
BlackbaudEasy to get the hang ofReports aren’t easily customisableDonor stewardship
Jenzabar OneMobile-friendly…….but a tad buggyUser-friendliness
HubSpotFlawless UX (user experience)Mobile app could be improvedPrice point (it’s free!)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are transforming the way universities go about their day-to-day business.

From optimising recruitment and streamlining enrolment to nurturing relationships with students, staff, donors, and alumni, higher education CRM software has brought about a level of change not seen since the advent of the internet.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to choose the right CRM system for your university, and help you compare leading suppliers. Let’s go!


Best CRM software for higher education in 2020

Like your students, we hit the books to find out which CRM systems for universities are making the grade – and which ones need to go back to school.

Taking into account industry-specific features, ease of use, price point, and more, we’ve researched and ranked the 7 CRM systems your higher education institution needs to know about. That includes Full Fabric, Salesforce Education Cloud, Radius, Maestro by BocaVox, Blackbaud, Jenzabar One, and HubSpot.

The best CRM systems for higher education:

Jump into the list above to navigate to a particular supplier, or scroll down to get started. Alternatively – and ideal if you’re a little short on time – you can start comparing higher education CRM quotes with us, right here, right now.

Simply furnish us with some details about your university’s CRM requirements via a quick questionnaire. We’ll ask about the specific features you’ll require, and the number of users that’ll need access to the software. We should also know whether you’re currently using any form of CRM or CMS (contact management software) to ensure we have the best understanding of your educational institution’s unique needs.

From here, we’ll match you with one or more higher education CRM suppliers, who’ll be in touch over the phone with quotes tailored to your requirements.

It takes 30 seconds, and you just need to be based in the UK to be eligible.


Full Fabric

Best for alumni and student relationship management

Full Fabric is a dedicated higher education CRM software provider, offering a choice of four feature-rich CRM packages. ‘Origin’ is a dedicated recruitment platform that promises to help you attract more students and streamline enrolment. ‘Core’ is all about building relationships with students through marketing and communications. And the third, ‘Connector’, empowers you to grow your relationships with alumni and donors.

These three packages are underpinned by ‘Foundation’ – Full Fabric’s central CRM offering for monitoring and tracking your interactions with students and stakeholders. From lead capture and prospect qualification, all the way to event management and pre-enrolment communication, Full Fabric lets you take charge of the entire student lifecycle.

Pros:

  • Designed specifically and solely for the unique requirements of the higher education industry
  • Allows you to automate key tasks, such as contact and lead capture
  • Clean, comfortable UI (user interface)

X Cons:

  • Analytics and data reporting still leave a bit to be desired

Salesforce Education Cloud

Best for third-party integrations

Salesforce is the giant of the CRM world. The company’s cloud-based CRM for higher education sports everything you need to establish, maintain, and grow relationships with students, staff, and alumni. The software’s interface is clearly laid out, and all the information that matters to you — social feeds, dashboards, messages, the lot — is pushed to you on the homepage, so it’s the first thing you’ll see when you log in.

Salesforce Education Cloud is offered as a module, distinct from its excellent offerings for sales, marketing, and customer service teams. However, you can still easily integrate Education Cloud with other products from the Salesforce range – enabling better collaboration with your finance, HR, and student-facing departments.

On top of this, the Salesforce AppExchange offers a wealth of integrations specific to education. By combining Salesforce with applications such as CoPilot, Affinaquest, and Ascend, you’ll be able to deliver value across all stages of the student journey.

Pros:

  • Boasts the finest analytics on offer
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Strong knowledge base and user community means your questions will always be answered… and quickly!

X Cons:

  • One of the more expensive CRM systems on the market

Radius by Anthology (formerly Campus Management)

Best for admissions management

We’ll be honest. Radius – pioneering higher education CRM software from Campus Management (now Anthology) – isn’t winning any beauty contests. The interface is a little dated, and the UX can be a tad clunky, too. You won’t care about this, though, if you’re looking for a best-in-class admissions management solution – because Radius delivers this in spades.

As well as pulling all applicant information into a single, accessible interface, Radius provides a range of digital review tools to help you make better, faster admissions decisions. Radius even empowers your students, with a self-access portal helping them with application and financial aid status tracking, and offering personalised learning recommendations.

Pros:

  • Workflows allow you to automate many of the most time-consuming processes of admissions management
  • Completely cloud-based, with minimal IT setup involved
  • Its neat two-way web chat feature helps you to deal with student queries swiftly and efficiently

X Cons:

  • Comes with a big learning curve, particularly if you’re new to CRM

Maestro by BocaVox

Best for student communication

We are a no hype company that keeps its promises and goes above and beyond to earn customer satisfaction.” So says BocaVox CEO Sue Diseker – and it’s hard to argue with her claim. Highly configurable, cloud-based, and with plenty of analytical features to boot, Maestro delivers the goods. With features spanning course management, graduation planning, admissions, and tuition billing, Maestro does away with the hassle of running an educational institute.

Maestro is intuitively easy to use, too. It’s simple to group students, and contact them in bulk via text or email. You can deliver configurable communications directly to your students’ inboxes, or post an announcement to save time and keep everyone in the loop.

Pros:

  • Free trial available
  • Excellent online customer approval ratings
  • Highly responsive, 24/7 customer support

X Cons:

  • The interface could use an update – for aesthetic purposes, at least!

You're just over halfway through our list of the top 7 best CRM systems for higher education in the UK. Time to start comparing quotes?

Simply hit one of the buttons below to start our quick questionnaire. It takes just 30 seconds to do, and by telling us more about your university's specific requirements, we can help ensure that you receive the best, most personalised rates on higher education CRM software.

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Blackbaud

Best for donor stewardship

As software designed to help charities engage and manage their donors, Blackbaud is a name most commonly associated with CRM for nonprofits. However, Blackbaud is also well-suited to higher education – helping universities maintain and cultivate relationships with current, prospective, and former students. Encompassing donor stewardship, award management, and scholarship promotion, Blackbaud’s savvy software will transform your relationships with alumni and stakeholders.

What’s more, Blackbaud is one of the most intuitive higher education CRM systems on the market. You can create and export impressive-looking donor reports in a couple of clicks, and it doesn’t take any technical (or artistic!) expertise to put together an online scrapbook experience for your donors.

Pros:

  • Extremely user-friendly
  • Multi-user access means it’s ideal for remote teams
  • Range of third-party applications on offer

X Cons:

  • Reports aren’t easily customisable – and some aren’t configurable at all

Jenzabar One

Best for user-friendliness

Jenzabar One marries a superb suite of technology, services, and products catering exclusively to higher education with a firm focus on user-friendliness and aesthetics. On top of CRM, Jenzabar also offers packages tailored to enrolment, fundraising, finance, e-learning, and student retention and analytics – all while being a pleasure to look at, and a breeze to set up and use.

Jenzabar One Financial Aid featureWe’re particularly fond of Jenzabar’s ‘Financial Aid’ feature (pictured). With financial aid being a deciding factor for so many prospective students, it’s a crucial – though not always easy to pull off – part of any higher education CRM strategy. And thankfully, Jenzabar One strips away most of the hassle of providing financial awards.

By automating most of the admin (and resultant paperwork), providing accurate reporting, and leveraging fine data analysis, Jenzabar One helps you identify and deliver financial benefits to the students that need them most. This creates valuable opportunities for learners, while ensuring you hit your own enrolment and CRM goals, too.

Pros:

  • Makes a wide range of data accessible and easy to parse
  • Very mobile-friendly
  • Lets you administer surveys to garner feedback and retain your students

X Cons:

  • Some reviews suggest that the system can be a little buggy

HubSpot

Best free higher education CRM software

Hubspot is perfect for higher education institutions looking for a quick, clean, and simple way into the world of CRM. Not only is it completely free (albeit with certain serious limitations), but you can have an unlimited amount of users operating the software. Whether it's teachers, office staff, or even students, you'll get all the CRM access you need – with none of the cost. But that doesn't mean you're skimping on too much functionality. Hubspot is packed to the brim with integrations and intuitive contact management features that will help your school thrive.

It’s also worth mentioning HubSpot’s strong marketing capabilities. After all, you can’t just rest on your laurels – to hit your enrolment quota, you’ll need to be constantly tapping into more modern, more effective ways of attracting new students.

And HubSpot helps you do just that – increasing awareness of your university through blogs optimised for search engines, and empowering you to create engaging social media and microsite content. You can then convert and nurture these leads directly through the CRM’s slick interface, before utilising HubSpot’s closed-loop analytics to drill down into the success of your latest campaign.

To find out more about why HubSpot is our top pick for putting your university in the shop window, head to our guide to the best marketing CRM systems in 2020.

Pros:

  • Sparkling UI, and almost flawless UX
  • Free 30-day trial available
  • The contact filtering and organisation is spot on

X Cons:

  • Some customer reviews suggest the mobile app could use some improvement

Want to explore what HubSpot can do for your university? Start your free trial now.


Expert verdict

Choosing a CRM system for your higher education institute should never be a reflex action. The right software for you depends on the specific features your university needs, and on its unique circumstances and requirements. So let’s recap:

Are features at the top of your priority list? Consider how Maestro can refresh the way you communicate with your students, or what Radius can do for your admissions management. Salesforce Education Cloud is great for features, too, with thousands of app integrations stretching the limits of what your system can do.

However, if client and student relationships mean most to you (and considering you’re here, we think they do!), then you can’t look past Full Fabric – though Blackbaud also offers excellent donor stewardship capabilities.

If all the above is merely secondary – and you just want a higher education CRM that’s easy to use – pick Jenzabar One. HubSpot’s free plan, meanwhile, makes it a bargain hunter’s top choice.


Next steps

So, now you know the benefits of CRM in higher education – and you have a good idea which providers you like the sound of. But, ah… what’s next? 

Well, getting a CRM system is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

Step 1: Click on one of the icons below and fill in our quick, quote-finding webform. This allows us to get a better idea of your specific requirements. It’s completely free, and the whole process takes less than a minute.

Step 2: We match your requirements with leading CRM providers on your behalf, who’ll be in touch with you directly to offer tailored quotes.

Step 3: You save money by comparing quotes, and get the best deal for your university. Simple!

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FAQs

What is a CRM system in higher education?

A CRM system is a software application used by businesses in the education industry (and beyond) to store and manage contact information. In a university setting, a CRM will hold data on prospective candidates, students, parents, staff, alumni, and donors.

By bringing this information together in a single place, CRM software automates certain aspects of admin-intensive processes, such as enrolment, admissions, and student engagement. CRM systems are also integral in delivering targeted marketing through personalised emails and social media, and providing key, detailed data insights via reporting and analytics.

In broad terms, higher education CRM enables you to:

  • Effectively manage the student lifecycle, from application to graduation
  • Personalise your interactions across email and social media
  • Customise your workflow to improve efficiency
  • Foster improved collaboration between students, staff, and faculty

What are the benefits of CRM in higher education?

So, what are universities using CRM for? Here are five ways a CRM system can help:

Attracting new students

With targeted marketing and alluring web-to-lead forms, CRM software makes it easy to grow the reputation of your university – and attract the best students.

With custom landing pages and user journeys optimised for conversions, CRM software collates key data about prospects and leads. And once you have this information, a CRM system stores it securely on a cloud-based database – meaning you can access it anywhere in the world, at any time.

Qualify prospective leads

Not every student is right for your university, and (let's face it) your university isn’t right for every student.

That’s why it’s so handy that higher education CRM leverages advanced profiling tools to build target demographics – helping you identify the most suitable candidates in the least time. By only focusing your time and energy on pursuing suitable, qualified leads,  you can boost enrolment totals and reduce running costs.

Reduce costs by streamlining enrolment

Universities will often use one application to store contact information, another for reporting, and yet another for managing enrolment and events. Where’s the sense in that?

A dedicated CRM system for higher education brings all of these functions together – saving you time, minimising the risk of error, and enabling your team to sidestep the detrimental effects that data siloing can have on productivity.

Nurture relationships and build trust

Enrolment is just the beginning. A higher education CRM system enables you to nurture relationships with students across multiple platforms throughout the entire duration of their studies.

Dedicated social media tools make it easier than ever to post to sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and running mass mail-out campaigns is a breeze. As far as monitoring engagement goes, you can do that on a granular level – allowing you to tailor your marketing strategy according to the online behaviour of your students.

Track results and implement change from key learnings

The benefits of CRM software for universities extend way beyond engagement and contact management, though. Advanced analytics tools provide real-time insights into candidate behaviour and student preferences.

Do you want to know which courses have seen a drop off in applications? Or how many prospective students engaged with email marketing before applying? A CRM system tells you all this and more. Better still, the results of these insights can be viewed on simple dashboards, via easily digestible charts and graphs.

What questions should I ask providers?

To say that CRM competition is fierce in the education sector would be an understatement. And with so many providers out there, it’s easy to end up with a generic system that doesn’t meet your specific needs.

Here are four questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re choosing the right CRM system for your university:

1. What do I want from a CRM system?

Most CRM providers offer a basic package with optional add-ons. If you’re only interested in streamlining enrolment, then you probably won’t need a marketing and social media module. Have a clear idea of your requirements to avoid being upsold to by opportunistic suppliers.

2. Cloud-based or on-premise?

Cloud-based software is hosted by the provider and accessed via your web browser. On-premise CRM, meanwhile, is installed on your university’s servers. In the long run, an on-premise solution should be more cost-effective because it only requires a one-off license fee — but after that, you’re on your own in terms of setup and maintenance.

A cloud-based solution is charged on a monthly basis, with the supplier providing support and handling all the technical stuff.

3. How many licenses do I need?

Almost all CRM is priced per user, per month. So to get an accurate idea of costs, you'll need to know exactly how many people will need access to the system.

4. How much does it cost?

As you’ll have noticed above, most higher education CRM providers aren’t all that good at offering accurate prices for their products. In most cases, you’ll have to enquire to get a quote – or you can explore how much the software really costs with our 2020 CRM price guide.

Of course, the best way to compare quotes – as we’ve mentioned – is with our free, tailored service for UK universities. Hit the button below to take advantage of it.

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Thanks for reading!

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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