NEWS: Altain to attend the HESPA/WonkHE/EY conference: Developing university strategies, London Dec 1st

“Strategic planners have a unique opportunity to position themselves as essential partners, advisors and facilitators in the process of change as institutions seek to compete, collaborate and develop from different national contexts. While the future is necessarily uncertain, establishing a more thorough, professional approach to institutional strategy development will be essential if the journey ahead is to be navigated successfully.”

– John Pritchard (2017) in Strike (ed.) Higher Education Strategy and Planning: A Professional Guide

HESPA and Wonkhe are hosting an engaging one-day conference to explore key issues for strategic planning in higher education. The event will build on the work of HESPA’s Strategy Interest Group and the recently-published professional guide to Higher Education Strategy and Planning.

With expert input from a range of perspectives, the programme will cover strategic thinking, and managing strategically. There will be opportunity for engagement between delegates to work on practical ways of overcoming barriers to effective strategy in institutions.

Choice and competition – Why values not just value matters

Choice and competition is amongst the strategies and tools that the Office for Students (OfS) says that it will deploy to achieve twin goals of value for students and the taxpayer in higher education. Leaving aside ideological debates, such as what constitutes value, there are also some market strategic considerations as we head towards operationalisation of the policy.

Crucially even a simple analysis reveals the the risks of unfettered commercial approach and therefore the importance of not for profit ethos

What do we mean by ‘choice and competition’?

The idea is that value and consumer experience of public services can be enhanced by applying market principles – so called quasi markets. However, It’s not just a question of wholesale application of a commercial model

Considerations such as those suggested by Frontier economics in a review on behalf of the OFT and illustrated below, guide high level design and specifics of policy

A clear power imbalance Uni v Student

From even just a cursory look at the factors involved it is evident that there is significant imbalance between the Demand side – a student’s capacity to make informed choices and the Supply side – insight, planning tools and marketing techniques available to universities for recruiting them

Also for universities recruitment is an annual cycle, whereas for prospective students it’s a onetime purchasing experience

Dig deeper and we can see that universities marketing and technology prowess has developed markedly at the same time as investments in aspects such as Careers education and Information advice and guidance have reduced markedly

The value of a not for profit ethos

All of which explains the continuing importance of a not for profit ethos that pervades education –  values, not just a pursuit of ‘value’

Finally, not for profit values and value for money are not mutually exclusive

I have worked for both commercial and not for profits and my experience is that context is key. I was the strategic marketing director for Which? wholly self-funded it combines great work on behalf of the consumer with a sustainable revenue model. Likewise, AQA, a charity where I was director of market strategy sustains market leadership in A levels and GCSE against alternative providers that include global commercial entity, Pearson

My experience has been that problems occur as organisations stray from the values path, or worse regulators unwittingly stack the deck

Your views?

Is there a consumer v provider imbalance? To what extent is the pursuit of values and value compatible? What is the role of the regulator in this context?

Please share your comments below


The New TEF Awards – Part 3: Takeaways and suggestions

Following on from first impressions in Part 1 and more a more detailed assessment of marketing behaviour in Part 2 we share some final takeaways and suggestions

TEF rankings are clearly considered significant by most, judging by actions ranging from publicising to vary degrees if Gold, to protesting and appealing if Bronze with Silver somewhere in between.

However, the data suggests that public interest and possibly that of key stakeholders faded rapidly after the initial PR. For some institutions that may represent a preferred outcome, however those riding high in the rankings it may be something to give some attention to, individually or collaboratively.

Finally, building awareness through digital content is clearly not a new concept for most modern higher education institutions, however, our research suggests that, for some institutions at least, some of the finer points of marketing through content and social media are being missed.

Our advice to these institutions would be to keep the following in mind:

  • While static pages can be great for longer-term visibility, if it’s news, be sure to publish a news article, as current / recently dated content is more likely to appeal to social media users. Whichever route you take, be sure to publish *something*
  • Keep your ear to the ground for upcoming “hot topics” in higher education. Consider your institution’s approach / reaction to the topic, and publish content to match, entering you into the conversation and building awareness around it
  • Consider the words that interested parties are likely to be searching for in Google. Ensure these words can be found in the titles, headers and copy of your content
  • Encourage students, staff and alumni to like / follow your social media accounts to increase engagement with content posted to them
  • Pin important new stories to the top of social news feeds to ensure they build awareness for as long as they are relevant
  • Be sure to post news to all social networks where there may be interested parties. Do not discount LinkedIn
  • Be sure to post actual, clickable links to your website on Facebook

Your view?

Does our analysis reflect strategies of Gold, Silver and Bronze awarded institutions respectively? Should more be done to sustain the profile of the TEF awards? Is your institution most of the opportunity?

If you would like to discuss further please get in touch.