University marketing teams are always keen to discover what makes their institution unique. Sometimes the answer – or at least part of the answer – lies right under everyone’s noses; it’s the institution’s distinctive location.
In this month’s HE Research Snippet we’re focussing our attention on applicant preferences for various location-based amenities.
Access to particular amenities and resources can be really important to applicants. A keen mountain biker or hiker may well want to spend the next few years of their life at a university with good access to the countryside, while a devoted clubber may not want to be out in the wilds. Looking at some of the rural drivers, our research shows that there are as many as 29 universities in the UK where over a third of their students are looking for access to the countryside. Figure 1 below, shows the number of institutions where over a third of students wanted access to various geographic based amenities.
New 1st year undergraduate students in their first term of study were asked, “Thinking about outdoor life, were you looking for a university that gave you access to any of the following? Open countryside; Seaside; Hills / mountains Based on Higher Expectations surveys 2010/11 to 2012/13 aggregated, n=37498. Contact YouthSight for full back-data and the latest survey just released
Of course, students are drawn to cities too and urban amenities such as clubs, shops, music and theatre are also important for very many applicants. Our point is that every university has a unique ‘footprint’ of access to amenities. And that, in turn, attracts a unique profile of people looking for very different experiences. Figure 2 below, shows, as an example, just how different that profile can be between institutions. Both HEIs in the example are highly respected pre-1992 UK universities.
Figure 2: Percentage of new undergraduates who reported they were looking for access to the reported amenities.
New 1st year undergraduate students in their first term of study were asked, “Thinking about outdoor life, were you looking for a university that gave you access to any of the following? Open countryside; Seaside; Hills / mountains Based on Higher Expectations surveys 2010/11 to 2012/13 aggregated, n=37498. Contact YouthSight for full access to the data and reports
The two webs in Figure 2 demonstrate just how much preferences can vary between students at different institutions. The differences are so large they are crying out to be considered in brand propositions, institutional segmentations, targeting and profiling.
The student experience is, clearly, a multifarious thing, much broader than just teaching, learning, assessment and feedback. First and foremost students seek a happy and stimulating experience at university. And while the right course and the right teaching method are absolutely central to that (time and again our research shows this) it’s not the only game in town. Undergraduates are devoting three or more years of their time to a place as well as an institution. And it’s logical that they should consider lifestyle factors when considering where they’ll be studying.
What does this mean for marketers?
We are in no way advocating that universities turn their prospectuses into tourist brochures. But we do believe that location is an important point of difference and it’s worthwhile for marketing professionals in HEIs to understand what amenities count most for their particular blend of students (and how these vary from their competitors).