The future of HE marketing and The Student Room

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Part three of my summarised presentation from last weeks Discovering Futures event making suggestions for how HE Marketers can prepare for the introduction of KIS data. And how The Student Room plans to support students into university in this brave new world.
Part 3 of 3

Chichester university opens its Dubai campus (2025)

What next for HE?:

  • The rise in fees will have an impact on student choice when considering university
    • Whether to go in the first place?
    • Flexible options may become more attractive: FT, PT or distance learning
    • More students will choose to study outside of the UK
    • Reasurance up front that the costs will be worth it
    • Careful evaluating which subjects will lead to the best career prospects
  • When at university students will begin to expect a high quality service
    • Academic – contact time
    • Welfare and support services
    • Facilities
    • Industry connections
    • Career guidance into work
  • Funded degrees, Widening Access, Private unis, Mergers
  • Increased transparency and accountability
    • The Key Information set (KIS) associated with every HE course will be used by students to compare course and institute credentials
    • More universities will publish a Student Charter to lay out what a student can expect from going to their university
    • More ‘Rate my professor’ style websites could well spring up in the UK as seen in the US.
    • More data comparison websites will appear, look out for Bestcourse4me.com making waves within certain circles.

What next for The Student Room?:

There is a lot on the horizon, but specifically what are we doing to support students with their university choices?

As Tracy Lancaster, Chair of the University Marketing forum, rightly pointed out at the launch of the 2011 universities week; Students cannot choose a university and course on data alone.

We have conducted research that confirms this – For instance open days are as important as ever and students want to know what their friends and family think. Getting the shared and varied opinions of other applicants and current students is invaluable. Did you know for instance that 32% of our members at university said their decision of where to attend was directly influenced by what they read on The Student Room.

Forums are good for sharing those opinions and asking questions but they aren’t accessible to everyone. In addition to forum discussion we are looking to align those user opinions in the form of ratings and reviews with official data about courses, universities and outcomes. We will have a guide for every university with clear navigation to find and sort.

Our ambition is for The Student Room to be the place, alongside UCAS and opendays, that students come to evaluate what to study and where. By combining the opinions of students and course data we will become the TripAdvisor for HE.

We have had positive feedback on this evolution from the universities that kindly took part in our Innovation sessions earlier this year and from students.We are looking to launch our new university guides later this year and more details will follow between now and then.

What does it mean for university marketers?:

  • It’s not ALL about the KIS data. Universities will need to clearly communicate their USPs above and beyond that data.
    Bangor for example do a great job at appealing to students that enjoy the great outdoors and mountains. What differentiates your university? Specialism? Quality? Cost isn’t such an appealing USP as the structure of fee repayment means you pay the same if you pay top whack or not (9% in your income tax)
  • University marketers should choose channels that best allow them to communicate what makes them special. Video and rich media are very effective at this. Our university guides allow a university to showcase their institute on the website that students come to to inform those decisions.
  • Students will use KIS data to compare courses and universities. It is a fairer comparison method than league tables for the majority of universities that don’t for example specialise in research. BUT not all universities can be brilliant at everything for every course they offer. The data will expose areas of weakness. Therefore marketers should now go through the KIS categories and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Look to start to proactively address some areas of weakness for the long term. Hold up your good data and shout about it.
  • There will be a focus on employability
    • Develop closer links with industry
    • Degrees backed by quality recruiters will appeal as will links with industry bodies
    • Support your career services and shout about how brilliant they are.
    • Teach your students the skills they need to get work
  • Clear objectives & measurability
    • Get less obsessed by clicks and get better at measuring outcomes. What are they doing when they get to your website?
  • Linked with the above point, data is going to be invaluable to marketers. Where are your students coming from – regionally, what websites, what works and why? You need an effective CRM.
  • Much much closer relationships with students
    • Roll your sleeves up and nurture/support applicants
    • Reputation  – Students are the savviest internet users. They will shout it from the rooftops if they are getting a poor service. If they get a good service they will be your best advocates.
    • Social media is a very important part of this – Support your student room forum and get a TSR official rep ;)
    • Closer links with alumni – a lifelong relationship
    • Develop advocates
  • Look close to home
    • For students – Lower costs, benefits of staying with your friends will be attractive. It is possible to move from under the parental roof but stay in your hometown. Maybe that needs to be pointed out…
    • Close links with schools and local businesses. Theme of uni week yesterday was unis contributing to local community and economy. This will need to increase.
  • Good marketers will be in demand and, if the academics let them, should have more direct input into overall university strategy. (ok maybe i’m dreaming on that point)

This is part 3 of 3 – To read the first and second parts of the presentation visit the blog links below:

Part 1 – Change within HE and at The Student Room in the past 3 years

Part 2 – HE marketing & TSR today


The full presentation is available for download
Changes in HE and the impact on The Student Room and university Marketer – june 2011

  • Jeff McGowen

    How do i close my account?