Case study

Admissions administrator — Pagan

Find out how Pagan uses her customer service and administration skills to keep on top of her responsibilities in a busy university admissions office

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a degree in sociology I completed a five-month internship at the University of Bristol Careers Service. This helped me to get my current job at the University of Reading as it gave me an insight into working in higher education (HE).

It also helped to develop my customer-service skills and admin experience, which were both necessary in getting a job in admissions.

For an administrator role, what matters most is having experience of customer service and of using administrative and IT systems

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Although there's no particular link between my degree and my current job, I do believe that having a good degree from a well-renowned university helped me when applying for jobs in the sector.

What does an education administrator do?

I work in the postgraduate team in the admissions office so my day is usually spent processing decisions, made by either an academic tutor or someone more senior in my office, on Masters, PhD, PGDip and PGCE applications.

It's my job to enter the details of their offer on to the student record and generate an offer letter. Or, if it's a rejection, I must enter the reason for the rejection on to our system and then communicate this to the applicant.

The other responsibilities include responding to emails and answering phone calls. We get a number of different enquiries from prospective students covering the courses we offer, the cost of tuition fees and entry requirements. A significant portion of our emails are from applicants sending in documents in order to move their conditional offer to an unconditional one.

How has your role developed?

Since starting this role I've joined the teacher training sub-team, which is a group of about three to four members of the postgraduate team who process PGCE and School Direct applications. This has added an extra layer of responsibility to my job.

In terms of career ambitions, I would like to remain working in the HE sector but I want to progress to a more senior role where I can make more independent decisions and shoulder more responsibility.

What do you enjoy about working an admissions administrator?

Most of the students I speak to are overseas applicants, which has given me an interesting insight into the differences between cultures. Furthermore, I really enjoy helping and advising applicants. I remember when I was in sixth form and wanted to get accepted by the University of Bristol. I speak to people daily who feel the same way about gaining admission to the University of Reading, and I find it really rewarding to be in a position where I can give them advice.

There's also a nice energy around universities. People from all over the world come together and there's so much culture, knowledge, intellectualism and energy.

Also, if you miss being a student at university, working in HE is a good way of still feeling like you're a student.

What are the most challenging parts?

Our peak-time, which for the admissions office is between July and September, can be challenging. This is because we have hundreds of students sending us final documents in order for their offer to become unconditional before the start of the academic year.

Overseas students also require Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) numbers to apply for their student visas, (which is something our office issues). Generating a CAS number can take time and you have to make sure that all the details you're entering on the system are completely accurate. This means you have to be speedy, but also pay close attention to detail.

Over the summer we always have at least 600 plus emails in our inbox and our average turn-around time for answering an email is about five working days. It's a very stressful time as there's so much work to do.

Any tips for others wanting a career in education administration?

My current role is an entry-level position, so prior experience of working in a HE setting wasn't crucial. It's only if you want to progress to a higher grade that experience of HE becomes important.

For an administrator role, what matters most is having experience of customer service and of using administrative and IT systems.