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Five tips for University marketers as student applications decline

By The Drum | Editorial

October 25, 2011 | 4 min read

As University applications across the UK decline by 12% according to reports in the media, Nigel Pipkin, director for Birmingham marketing agency Seal, which has experience of working within the education sector, offers some advice for University marketers on how they can attempt to arrest the downturn.

What marketers within Universities should be doing to turn around the decline in applications for higher education?

It wasn’t so long ago stories abounded that there were too many students chasing too few places at university.

With fees trebling it’s provided a massive shock to the system but what’s happening is likely to be a jolt not a knock-out blow. When the dust settles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that most universities have sufficient students for the number of places available.

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With any price increase you expect a backlash and factor that into your pricing strategy. Universities will surely have done that, so we shouldn’t feel too sorry for them.

With money tight people are inevitably asking more questions and taking more time to make what is a key decision. So the first piece of advice is don’t panic. Expect a wave of late applications, a sort of lastminute-uni.com.

The second is get your customer services right. My experience is universities aren’t the most accessible when you want quick answers to questions. It’s easy to fall into complacency when you’ve people clamouring to join. So be available at weekends when families are together. Respond quickly and you’ll win the day.

Debt is the big, big issue. Don’t shy away from it. University open days are good at flogging courses but a poll of graduates here at Seal showed money advice was nil. At the next open day set up a dayglow tepee on the campus lawn and get Big Chief Calculator to spell out in simple terms that the long term financial benefits are there.

Number four. As a nation, we’re quick to laud entrepreneurs like Richard Branson who have turned themselves into a leading brand without a degree. Rightly so. But what about the successful people who graduated? Get them championing the cause. Stop being embarrassed about it.

And finally, sell yourselves abroad. So many markets these days are global – finance, technology, automotive, aerospace, oil – so why not British universities, which are widely acknowledged as some of the best in the world?”

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