Marketing, Universities & You

I don’t know how you chose your uni, but it was probably based on a number of issues, including (and certainly not limited to) in no particular order:

  • Location
  • Word of mouth/current student opinions
  • Promotional Literature
  • Subject you wish to take
  • Campus facilities
  • Availability/Quality of accommodation
  • Nightlife
  • League Tables
  • Student Surveys/Opinions
  • Guide book ratings
  • Size of uni
  • Number of students on particular course or in chosen school
  • Predicted grades

The list goes on…you get the point. The choice probably wasn’t simple.

question_mark (photo by svilen001)

The Guardian Higher Education Summit heard from the Shadow Secretary of State for Universities, David Willetts, on Tuesday. He suggested that more detailed information about courses should be given out to the ‘Facebook generation’ such as: information about crowded seminars and tutorials; details regarding the amount of access students get to lecturers; further detailed stats for students to choose their ideal sounding uni as easily as possible.

I can’t see how even more information will make a difference. It’s already a confusing minefield. There are conflicting reports depending on which university guide you read, which league table you refer to, which independent student report you rely on, which…

It won’t matter how much info is out there. In my mind, there are two major variables in obtaining info for choosing universities:

  1. The Marketing
  2. The Potential Students

Marketing is different for every uni going. Even the Student Unions around the country make a song and dance about totally different issues…from huge entertainments plans and fundraising opportunities through to better student rights and better access to tutors. Nothing is clear cut.

As for the universities themselves, their marketing departments don’t all come to the same conclusions as each other. If they had uncovered the special secret to attracting students, they’d all behave alike. As we know, that’s not the case.

And the uni websites…? Some are easy to use and full of relevant information, while others are frustrating and out of date, or worse, bare. Others are more like an advert than a true idea of what’s going on. It’s enough to drive a potential student bonkers.

That’s the second variable. Some potential students are enthusiastic to the point of obsession and won’t stop until they’ve heard the same piece of info from several alternative sources (e.g. prospectus, independent uni guide, and online student forum).

On the flipside, other candidates will break into a sweat at the prospect of simply sticking a pin randomly into a list of institutions.

Either way, an individual is unlikely to find the degree course of their dreams just because they’ve read a few books and asked a few questions.

And this doesn’t even go into the arguement of ‘uni is what you make it’. That’s a whole debate in itself.

Neither does it cover all of you who used Clearing to find a course and a uni. The Clearing process is potentially separate from the initial applications to specific universities via UCAS.

The fact that information is now regularly shared over the net can only be a good thing in my mind, but not something that can be emulated by an official approach. It’s the truly direct and independent approach that gives a further idea of what’s going on. It might not all be accurate and unbiased, but the same could probably be said for some of the published info out there. Even official statistics can be tainted by protest votes, completion by only a certain type of person, and out of date reporting.

There is no surefire way of finding the university of your dreams. You can try your best and get close, but even then it’s uncertain until you’re there.  And even if one place feels superior to everywhere else, there isn’t usually a guarantee of acceptance. When rejection takes place (or not enough UCAS points are attained), many new choices have to be made.

That’s my piece over, now it’s your turn…

How did you choose your university? What would you advise potential candidates now? Is hindsight a fine thing, or would it have made no difference to your choices? Are you applying to unis at the moment yourself?  How are you making your choices?  Do you agree that more information should be available. If so, what?