The 7 Best CRM Systems for Higher Education

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Our researchers shows Zoho CRM as the best CRM for higher education, as it showcases the most impressive list of features used to gather and organise student data.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is essential in schools, especially for tertiary-level education, because it helps the school build and strengthen relationships with applicants, students, faculty, and alums. It collects data, maintains records, and analyses information, which is valuable in nurturing students and building the legacy of the school.

In this article, we’ve listed the best CRM for universities and cover how a CRM system can help your school achieve its goals. For an in-depth and personalised quote, our free quote comparison tool will help match you with the CRM systems that best fit your institution’s needs. Simply answer a few questions, and we’ll have our trusted CRM providers contact you with tailored, obligation-free quotes.

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Zoho CRM

Freshsales

FullFabric

Anthology Reach

Maestro SIS by Bocavox

Blackbaud CRM

Jenzabar One

Price Range

£0 – £52 per user, per month

Price Range

£0 –  £66 per user, per month

Price Range

Price available upon request

Price Range

Price available upon request

Price Range

Price available upon request

Price Range

Price available upon request

Price Range

Price available upon request

Key Features
  • Automated lead scoring
  • Scheduling tools
  • Email insights
  • Automated workflows
  • Social media integrations
  • Pre-made / custom reports
  • Revenue forecast
Key Features
  • Web forms
  • Chat and messaging
  • Automated workflow
  • Automated lead scoring
  • Email templates and autoresponse
  • Custom sales pipeline
  • Custom reports
Key Features
  • Student management
  • Prospect pre-qualification
  • Event planning
  • Lead capturing
  • Data collection
  • Audit management
  • Approval process control
Key Features
  • Customized email templates
  • Automated follow us & notifications
  • Web forms
  • Communication tracking
Key Features
  • Chat and messaging
  • Billing
  • Electronic payment
  • Application management
  • Enrollment
  • Fundraising management
  • Faculty management
  • Student records
  • KPIs
Key Features
  • Payment Processing
  • Donor tracking
  • Fundraising management
  • Grant management
  • Email & social media marketing
  • Website management
  • Workflow management
Key Features
  • Student monitoring
  • Reporting /analytics
  • Benchmarking
  • Workflow management
  • Fundraising management
  • Collaboration tools
  • Chatbot
  • eLearning
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan

Free trial

Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
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Try one of our favourite higher education CRMs for free:

Zoho CRM logo
Our researchers found Zoho CRM offers the most generous range of features

Try its free plan

freshsales logo
Freshsales is our researchers' top pick for student communication

Try its free plan

1. Zoho CRM: Best range of features

Zoho logo
Zoho CRM
Pricing £0 - £52 per user, per month
Why is Zoho CRM on this list?

Zoho CRM is number one on our list for its comprehensive list of features at an affordable cost. You’ll have access to a suite of marketing tools, such as web forms, website tracking, and Twitter keywords, which help attract student enrollees. Moreover, you’ll have access to contact management tools and customizable reports to manage your admissions, student, and faculty data. Likewise, you can utilise its visual sales pipeline and automated lead scoring to track enrollees.

There is no doubt that Zoho is tooled with powerful features,  it could include more lead communication tools, such as website chatbots and instant messaging apps outside of its top-level subscription tier, the Plus plan.. If you want more communication features, Freshsales offers live chat, instant messaging apps, email auto-responses, and even native VOIP (voice over internet protocol) across all its plans.

However, Zoho CRM has a lot more to offer—for example, a unified inbox and calendar to keep track of your schedule and events. In addition, you’ll have features to help you manage your faculty and staff, including team KPIs, individual targets, team dashboards, team hierarchies, and organisational KPIs.

Strengths

Great value for money

Efficient team infrastructure tools to manage your faculty

Practical reports and contact database features

Student conversion tools

Weaknesses

Lack of communication features

Pricing
PlansStarting price per user, per month (billed annually)Starting price per user, per month (billed annually)
Free £0 £0
Standard £12 £16
Professional £18 £28
Enterprise £35 £40
Ultimate £42 £52
zoho-email-setup
Zoho allows you to configure your email, unifying your inbox and calendar.

Zoho also has completely customisable layouts for accounts, leads, contacts, etc. In our testing, we could remove sections we didn't need, such as Skype ID or Fax. We found the Quick Create tool to be incredibly useful when adding a large number of leads. It allowed us to save time by adding only essential information. We could then go in and add details later.

2. Freshsales: Best for tracking communication with students

Freshsales Logo
Freshsales
Pricing £0 - £66 per user, per month
Why is Freshsales on this list?

Freshsales offers one of the most affordable CRM plans, offering institutions excellent value for money. Likewise, it equips you with reliable communication tools to connect with and keep track of students, including live chat and messaging apps. The best thing about it is that it even includes native VOIP (voice-over internet protocol), which allows you to dial and receive calls over the internet.

However, we think Freshsales could use more lead-capturing tools, like website visitor tracking. This is where Zoho shines as it offers Zoho SalesIQ integration, helping you engage and collect information from your leads.

Regardless, you cannot deny that Freshsales houses various practical tools for storing and organising data, such as list custom reports, a chart builder, list segmentation, and duplicate detection. These are extremely valuable in building reports and managing data from your prospective, current, and former students.

Strengths

Multiple lead communication and conversion features

Excellent value for money

Excellent data & reports tools

Practical contact database

Easy to use & navigate

Weaknesses

Missing in lead capture tools

No customer service tools

Pricing
PlansStarting price per user, per month (billed annually)Starting price per user, per month (billed monthly)
Growth (for three or fewer users) £0 £0
Growth £12 £15
Pro £29 £35
Enterprise £55 £66

Freshsales has a lot of support/demo suggestions and a decent amount of tooltips. We found these useful as the UI can be overwhelming to those without a lot of CRM experience. There's also a handy ‘launchpad' functionality (the rocket ship in the left menu) which acts as a search engine for Freshsales features/functionality, allowing you to quickly identify the available options by using a keyword or two.

Freshsales sales sequence email configuration
Email campaigns are quick and easy to set up and schedule, despite the requirement to build our own templates.

Email campaigns are very useful as they help you to reach out to students in a quicker and more efficient manner, ensuring communication is always timely and relevant.

3. FullFabric: Best for alumni and student relationship management

FullFabric
Pricing Available upon request
Why is FullFabric on this list?

FullFabric is a CRM system that specialises in higher education, providing solutions to boost enrolments, drive revenue, and improve student-faculty relationships. It offers three types of products: Origin, Core, and Foundation.

Foundation CRM gives you tools to track every interaction with and the progress of each student, including real-time tracking, custom forms, dashboards, and reporting. Origin focuses on admission and enrolment progress. Lastly, Core is a unique platform that lets students manage their schedules and course materials, foster relationships with faculty, and manage campus life. From lead capture and prospect qualification, to event management and pre-enrolment communication, Full Fabric lets you take charge of the entire student lifecycle.

However, FullFabric’s system only allows storing up to 2,000 contacts. If you want more contact storage, Freshsales offers unlimited contacts across all of its plans.

Strengths

Outstanding student pre-qualification process

Seamless process from recruitment to admissions

Transparent pipeline

Specialises in providing solutions to the unique requirements of universities

Weaknesses

Analytics and data reporting still needs improvement

Limited to 2,000 contacts

Pricing
Available on request
FullFabric doesn't share its prices publicly - you can contact the provider for a bespoke quote.

4. Anthology Reach: Best for admissions management

Anthology Reach
Pricing Available upon request
Why is Anthology Reach on this list?

Anthology Reach is another CRM software that caters specifically for universities, with tools that give you insights into your applicants, enrollees, and students. It’s especially good at managing the recruitment and admission process. In addition, it‘s efficient in student retention, alumni engagement, and career advancement.  By utilising tools, such as the reach scoring model and success planning, you can collect data and develop strategies to help your students enhance their experience and performance at school.

Some users complain about its outdated and non-intuitive interface, making it difficult to learn and use. If you’re looking for a CRM with a user-friendly interface, we recommend Freshsales. Aside from providing step-by-step onboarding assistance, it’s easy to set up and use. It has a highly intuitive interface that’s easy to understand and adapt to.

Strengths

Multi-channel outreach for marketing automation

Includes automated workflows for time-consuming processes

Simple to set up cloud-based solution

Weaknesses

Outdated interface

Pricing
Available on request
Anthology Reach doesn't share its prices publicly - you can contact the provider for a bespoke quote.

5. Maestro Student Information System by BocaVox: Best simple interface

Maestro SIS by BocaVox logo
Maestro SIS by BocaVox
Pricing Available upon request
Why is Maestro SIS by BocaVox on this list?

Although its user interface (UI) is quite dated, Maestro SIS by BocaVox gives users  an easy-to-use and intuitive interface. For example, you can sort applicants, students, and alums into groups through drag and drop. This makes it easier to send group messages and emails by category. Customising forms and reports to mirror your school's business processes takes less effort too. Likewise, adjusting your system to accommodate your university's growing demands is simple, which shows the system is also highly scalable.

With a highly configurable, cloud-based system, and a slew of practical tools, including admissions management, class scheduling, activity tracking, and billing and invoicing, Maestro takes a bulk of responsibilities off your hands.

If there are any complaints, they are about the lack of user permission levels, which are essential in protecting sensitive data. If you want a solid team infrastructure on your system, we recommend Zoho CRM. Zoho CRM is programmed with team hierarchies, which allows you to set up internal teams to keep information within a group. It also has data restrictions based on roles, so you can control which of your users can access sensitive data.

Strengths

Reliable 24/7 customer support

User-friendly interface

Plenty of efficient and highly-responsive features

High scalability

Weaknesses

Outdated UI design

Lack of accessibility control

Pricing
Available on request
Maestro SIS doesn't share its prices publicly - you can contact the provider for a bespoke quote.

6. Blackbaud CRM: Best for donor stewardship

Blackbaud CRM
Pricing Available upon request
Why is Blackbaud CRM on this list?

Blackbaud CRM made a name for helping non-profit organisations raise funds. It's built with tools designed to connect with donors, organise fundraising activities, and track donations. But beyond its reputation, Blackbaud also flourishes in the academic world, giving institutions a helping hand when it comes to cultivating relationships with applicants, students, and alums.

But because of its reliable fundraising features, such as payment processing, donation tracking, as well as donor and grant management, you'll have the tools to manage scholarships, awards, and promotions.

What also makes Blackbaud part of this list is that it's one of the most user-friendly CRM systems for higher education. You can easily customise forms and reports with just a few clicks, saving your team time and costs for training.

The downside is, reports are rigid and difficult to customise. Some aren’t even configurable at all. If you want to modify your platform to accommodate your needs, Zoho CRM has custom dashboards, fields, task boards, and objects to reflect your business processes and accommodate your needs.

Strengths

Extremely user-friendly

Multi-user access means it’s ideal for remote teams

Range of third-party applications on offer

Weaknesses

Rigid reports

Pricing
Available on request
Blackbaud CRM doesn't share its prices publicly - you can contact the provider for a bespoke quote.

7. Jenzabar One: Best for usability

Jenzabar One
Pricing Available upon request
Why is Jenzabar One on this list?

Jenzabar One brings high-quality CRM software to higher education with top-notch usability and design. It’s programmed with user-friendly tools (workflow management, fundraising management, eLearning, and analytics) that makes managing enrollment, fundraising, online learning, and student retention easier.

A good example of this, is its Financial Aid feature. It's important for any institution to offer well-managed financial assistance as it can influence many potential students' decisions. Fortunately, its Financial Aid feature eliminates the fuss around awarding scholarships and financial grants. To elaborate, the software enables you to identify the right students and appropriate financial aid by automating a big chunk of administrative tasks. This includes creating reports and leveraging on smart data analysis, helping you meet your goals while providing learners with meaningful opportunities.

However, some users complain about its buggy system. If you want a smooth experience navigating the system, Freshsales provides a simple and intuitive interface that’s easy and hassle-free to use.

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

Some reviews suggest that the system can be a little buggy

Pricing
Available on request
Jenzabar One doesn't share its prices publicly - you can contact the provider for a bespoke quote.

Try one of our favourite higher education CRMs for free:

Zoho CRM logo
Our researchers found Zoho CRM offers the most generous range of features

Try its free plan

freshsales logo
Freshsales is our researchers' top pick for student communication

Try its free plan

How did we compare the best CRM for universities?

Our researchers painstakingly test and evaluate the top CRM software to help you find the perfect solution for your business. We look at the following key criteria to assess each CRM provider:

  • Usability: We test each system and evaluate how easy it is to use the platform.
  • Price: The most affordable CRM plan that offers the best value for your money gets the highest score.
  • Customisation: We don’t just assess how much you can personalise your system to suit your business, we also consider how easy it is to customise.
  • Features: The wider the variety of functionalities the system offers, the higher its score.
  • Help and support: How many customer support channels does the platform offer? The higher the number of support resources the platform has, the higher its ranking.

Once we’ve collected all of the information and scored each key category, we’ll calculate each CRM plan’s final scores and rank them accordingly.

What are the benefits of CRM in higher education?

Engaging prospective students

CRM systems enable universities to capture information from prospective students, including name, email, location, and educational attainment. This information can then be used to customise email and future promotions and campaigns to their interest.

Implement marketing campaigns through automation

Universities can gain a great deal from CRM solutions by automating marketing practices, such as student lead management and follow-up procedure.

Gain insights on organisational processes

With built-in reporting and analytics tools, users can easily add, manage, and access information. This information updates in real time and provides historical data, promoting transparency across all departments. This makes it easier to gain insights into your organisational processes and help you develop successful growth strategies and make better decisions.

Verdict

Zoho CRM is our number one pick for the best CRM system for higher education due to having a plethora of features under its belt.

However, we recommend that you choose your CRM system based on your university’s goals and demands. So, whether you need software specialising in alumni and student relationship management or donor stewardship, we have one recommended for you,

If you need a personalised CRM recommendation, our free quote comparison tool will help you connect with trusted CRM providers that will give you the best, obligation-free quotes that fit your needs.

FAQs

What is the use of CRM in higher education?
CRM systems help build and strengthen the relationships the institution has with its candidates, students, alumni, and the faculty.
Is CRM effective in educational marketing?
Most CRM systems are equipped with marketing tools like web forms, chatbots, and website visitor trackers, which help you track, engage, and manage prospective, current, and former students. In addition to this, CRM software can help you send personalised messages and automated follow-up emails to cultivate the relationship between your institution and your students.
What are the three types of CRM?
CRM systems have three classifications: sales CRMs, marketing CRMs, and customer service CRMs. We recommend that you choose software that's aligned with your goals and needs.
How much does CRM software cost?
CRM software can be affordable as £8.50 to as high as £240. Most CRM providers offer free plans, but you’ll most likely get basic features and limited capabilities. You can find more in our guide to CRM software costs.
Written by:
If you want insights into the best phone systems for your business, Claude Quiba will give you the lowdown on the latest in the industry. She's also a dreamer, a writer, and an autism advocate. Talk to her about art, coffee, or anything under the sun. But mostly, she's your go-to person when it comes to finding the best solutions for your team. 
Reviewed by:
James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.