Postgraduate education: understanding your audience

postgraduate learner

If you’re promoting postgraduate education, then it’s important to understand your target market. But the postgraduate profile is much harder to pin down than an undergraduate audience. Generally speaking, undergraduate prospects are:

  • in school or college education
  • aged 17 – 18 (perhaps 19 for gap year students)
  • have little to no career experience
  • see a degree as the natural next step (or even a requirement because a degree is a minimum requirement for many jobs)

We cannot make these assumptions when it comes to a postgraduate audience.

So, who are postgraduate applicants?

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Some may be undergraduates, others could be experienced professionals or homemakers. Each of these personas will have very different motivations, values and goals. Let’s explore some key audience trends*:

PG gender

There has been an even split of male and female users engaging with our postgraduate content.

postgraduate posts by country

While most of our postgraduate posts were written by UK residents, this data shows there is also a significant international market that can be addressed. How are you targeting students in other countries?

Looking more closely at UK prospects, there are significant regional differences in unique user numbers:

regional postgraduate activity

If you can target by region, you could reduce wastage by focusing your budget on the postgraduate hotspots.

It is interesting to see that the vast majority of postgraduate applicants engaging with our content have already left university. This suggests that putting all your efforts into promoting further study on campus (or to undergraduate students) might not be the best approach. Do you have a comprehensive strategy to reach out to older prospects in the workplace for example? 44% of our pageviews come from over 25s:

age of postgraduate applicants

In terms of content, the most popular threads with our audience were the Cambridge, Oxford and LSE applicants threads, demonstrating that there is tangible value to having a university presence in the postgraduate areas of our site. As you would expect, considering the most common application times, onsite activity really picks up from November and peaks in March.

Why are they interested in postgraduate education?

What’s in it for your applicants? Understanding your audience’s goals and pain points will help you to speak their language and meet their needs. Here are some recent comments from our forums:

“Once I knew which career I wanted, THEN I knew which postgrad to do.”

“I did a postgrad straight after my undergrad. A huge part for me doing one was that I was offered a scholarship to do so, if I wasn’t, I definitely would not have wanted to take on the extra loans.”

One of the fantastic things about our forums is peer-to-peer support. This student provided a solution for students who want to study, but lack the time or money:

“I would recommend to anyone to do their masters part-time. I was able to afford it by doing it this way and didn’t need a loan. The £4k cost was cut in half and worked out at £1,000 per semester which I was able to save up for by working overseas during the summers. Then I worked full time and studied part-time throughout the rest of the year to live. I also found the extra time to study allowed me more time to develop my ideas and do a better and more comprehensive deep-dive on the theory, which I found more gratifying.”

Top tip: Did you know that you can post on The Student Room forums as an Official Rep? It’s a great way to identify your applicants’ concerns and offer solutions. Find out more about Official Reps.

postgraduate learning in library

What are the key deterrents putting potential students off?

In this blog, we talked about how interest in postgraduate qualifications has declined by 13% in just a year because more students are undecided. So what can you do to influence their decision-making process? We ran a poll on The Student Room, asking our community to tell us what is putting them further study:

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The cost of education was by far the biggest barrier for our respondents. Users gave us more detailed feedback in the thread:

“I simply wouldn’t have found the time to complete a Masters.”

“Expensive and I wanted a break first, having been in education for 17 straight years.”

I’d love to do [Business or Economics]… it would be really good for my career, but normally those kinds of courses are closer to £20k and I would just NEVER be able to afford that!!!!

“Although I’d be interested in further learning, I don’t *need* to do a postgrad to progress further in my current career. I think the time, effort, and money are what would put me off at the moment.”

“My lecturers never mentioned it as a possibility.”
(60% of current undergraduate respondents did not feel adequately informed about postgraduate study)

“I don’t know what I want to do career-wise, they’re expensive, I think they’re probably more difficult, little information about what they exactly entail, not sure if I want to continue education after my degree, heard mainly bad things about PhDs etc. I don’t think I want/need the extra stress tbh!”

“Paid for the master’s myself by working, funded PhD so was lucky. Without funding, not sure what would have happened.”

Read this blog for tips on overcoming the money objection.

Postgraduate recruitment: What can we do for you?

75% of all students use The Student Room. Our postgraduate segment contains over 130,000 targetable applicants. Our data is easy to segment because our users volunteer a lot of actionable information. This means that if you have a specific requirement, such as a course that needs a helping hand, we can refine the audience to match. We can also identify opportunities by behaviour, such as reading our postgraduate content.

Unique insights:
We live and breathe students. This means we’re able to use a combination of in-house expertise, first-hand student feedback and rich first-party data to continually optimise campaigns.

Visit our postgraduate page for more information about postgraduate recruitment, ask a question online, or call 0800 999 3222 to speak to our team.

*data from November 2019 (last 12 months’ activity)