Knowledge Hub

Competition in Higher Education

How marketing helps your university stand out from the crowd

Competition in student recruitment is nothing new, but it is becoming ever more fierce.

With effective and creative marketing, you can engage prospective students and help your university flourish for years to come.

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A competitive market

In recent years, market dynamics have played an increasing role in the UK’s higher education (HE) sector.

Government funding to universities now comes largely in the form of tuition fee loans, rather than through grants to institutions. This means that student choice accounted for 85% of up-front funding in England in 2015/16, up from 23% in 2007/8.

Furthermore, the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 expressly aimed to ‘deliver greater competition and choice’, for instance by making it easier for new providers to enter the market. That greater competition could potentially lead to the closure of some courses or even institutions.

Your marketing strategy

So, HE is clearly a competitive and fast-changing market. With this in mind, here are our top five pointers for standing out from the crowd when it comes to student recruitment.

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  1. Target your audiences

For most universities, recruitment is both a numbers game and a matter of achieving objectives, for example widening participation. So you might need separate strategies to reach each diverse group, including people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK, mature students, and international students.

And don’t forget to consider their parents: they’re often the ones paying!

  1. Engage through digital

The pandemic accelerated the sector’s shift to digital learning – and your marketing strategy needs to do likewise.

Interactivity is key. Social media and video content continue to be essential tools, but to stand out, you need to get creative.

Agile universities have demonstrated great innovation and digital savvy in replacing in-person events with online experiences such as Instagram Q&As, and virtual open days and tours.

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  1. ...but don't forget print

The university print prospectus remains one of the top ways to recruit students: it’s portable, tactile, memorable, and a great way to showcase your design skills.

Plus, it’s more enjoyable to share a prospectus than to crowd around a laptop, making this a great asset for teenagers to read with their parents.

However, the environment is a key issue for Millennials and Gen Zers, so make sure your printed materials meet sustainability standards.

  1. Promote values - and employment prospects

One survey found that 82% of prospective students want to attend a university which shares their values. But they were also realistic about their need to make their way in the world, with 83% preferring a university which supports graduates into high-paying jobs.

So share what your university stands for – and how it will prepare students for the careers they want.

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  1. Be authentic

In these days of fake news, authenticity has become increasingly important. Influencer marketing and student ambassadors can feel more relatable to young people.

Plus, the Office for Students warns: ‘There can be no place for false and misleading advertising in how universities sell themselves to prospective students.’ So keep it real!

Get in touch

At Linney, we’re experts in providing creative, sustainable and quality multichannel marketing services for the HE sector. Contact us today to discuss how we can support your university’s recruitment drive.