Can a HEI’s marketing strategy improve the student-institution match?
- Publisher: Routledge
Purpose\ud – Issues such as managing brand image, assessing advertising medium effectiveness and collecting market intelligence are common practice for higher education institutions (HEIs). Consequently, understanding the information needs of potential students to the HEI when they make their decisions is paramount. The aim of this survey is to analyse the decision‐making criteria of new undergraduates enrolling at a UK HEI on their first day in terms of marketing activities employed throughout the decision‐making period during their last 12 months. Focusing in particular on the effectiveness of the dissemination of information with the influences on their decisions of whether or not to keep this HEI in their preferred set and to enrol (purchase) will be investigated.\ud \ud Design/methodology/approach\ud – The research was designed to establish the key marketing communication activities that contribute to the student decision‐making process. A survey of 318 students enrolling on their first day at a Welsh (traditional) university was achieved from a sampling frame of 469. In order to supplement the literature, four semi structured in‐depth interviews with university staff (the School Manager, School Admissions Tutor, Head of Central Marketing, and Head of Central Recruitment) were also held. These interviews identified the key marketing communication themes (information sources with the application of new technologies in disseminating information during the decision‐making period) that acted as the foundation for the questionnaire. The respondents were asked to consider each phase of the decision‐making process and rank the information sources that had the most impact upon them. Hence a critical incident approach was employed.\ud \ud Findings\ud – The results show that the respondents did receive adequate information, with details of the programme of study being most important, but they would have preferred greater use of electronic sources and especially from current undergraduates on a regular basis. If the HE senior management knows the impact in terms of the timing and content of marketing activities on potential HE students, there is a better chance of matching the information sources to the needs of the students.\ud \ud Originality/value\ud – HEIs can do more for potential HE students by trying to offer the most relevant information that will satisfy each of their information needs. It is beneficial for all parties concerned that potential students are better informed and prepared to make those decisions. This is especially true as potential students are frequently young and living at home, planning to consume this “good experience” over a relatively long period of time, and the financial risks with opportunity costs involved are substantial. By addressing potential students' concerns and offering more “tailor‐made” communication strategies to suit them, HEIs can easily segment the market place and then position themselves within the competitive environment.
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