Indian higher education has been under immense pressure and struggling to follow a normal path due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Attracting new enrollments into the higher education (HE) campus was a multifaceted process before the outbreak, but now has turned out to be an ambiguous process along with its complexity.  In addition to personal and institutional factors, during outbreak it is more exaggerated by a vast range of situational factors.

Educational practices accompanying high esteem, high culture, and high quality are substantial contributors in instituting the reputation of higher educational institutions (HEIs) among stakeholders. Reputation provides a first impression that embosses in the minds of prospective students and their parents, even if they have not sighted and visited the HEI campus. Reputation is reliant on tangible facilities and infrastructure, human interactions, and support services provided by the HEIs that conversed through a strong platform of creating a positive word-of-mouth for HEIs. This is the manner how most of the existing reputed HEIs and Universities are engaged in fetching new enrollments into their campus. However, during an outbreak, dealing with only reputation will be inadequate.  However, HEIs, during the pandemic break, in addition to reputation, require greater concerns about reliance and relationships.

A good reputation, though consistently conveys healthy reliance, certain commitments towards its stakeholders must be fulfilled. Being students of reputed HEIs logically provides confidence among the students in availing quality HE and not being met by any academic loss. In COVID-19 outbreak, reliance holds greater importance for the HEIs in building a house of trust for attracting new enrollments into the campus.

Literature have revealed that during an outbreak, no HE delivery, may it be offline, online, or hybrid, can ensure students’ interest ongoing without academic loss. As COVID-19 outbreak is new to the world, stakeholders are not fully aware of the arrangements and facilities provided by HEIs for delivering HE curriculum during the outbreak. For effective curriculum delivery, risk-management and social distancing measures are going to trigger positive insights for trimming reputation and reliance during the outbreak.

HEIs then further need to activate co-creating mechanisms and platforms for easing relationship development among the stakeholders. Such relationships must be channelized through effective communications via online and face-to-face interactions (in small sizes) to facilitate positive word-of-mouth. This will furnish snowballing impact and long-term relationship. Faculty, existing students, and alumni students are the real experience holders and are the direct sources of spreading word-of-mouth about the suitability of their HEIs during the outbreak.  They should be actively involved in HEIs social networking sites/pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitters.

Making a better reputation in the outbreak will depend on how far and how fast HEIs create a ‘house of reliance and relationship’ for their stakeholders. All such efforts of HEIs will convert students’ attitude of ‘willingness’ into ‘acceptance’ and eventually fetch new enrollments into HEIs campuses with diversity. No doubt, Reputation, Reliance, and Relationship management combined will eventually create future markets for HEIs during outbreak situations.

NEW ENROLLMENTS ≅ R3 (Reputation*Reliance*Relationships)

Prof. Prashant Mahajan is a Registrar of a reputed engineering institution, R. C. Patel Institute of Technology, Shirpur (India) since Dec 2002. He has completed his Ph.D. under the faculty of commerce and management from KBC North Maharashtra University Jalgaon (India). He also holds MBA and BE degree. He has published more than fifteen research articles pertaining to service marketing in context to higher and technical education. He has more than 20 years of expertise and experience in the management and administration of higher and technical education.

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