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Thursday, 24 Apr 2014

Higher Expectations...

Higher Expectations is essential reading for education professionals concerned with university recruitment, course positioning, admissions, marketing, communications, finance, reputation, setting fees, widening participation and access. Based on interviews with over 12,000 new students, it maps the new higher education landscape, providing unique insights into university pricing, admissions and applicant interaction. It allows subscribers to explore some of the key competitive and policy questions facing the sector and their own institution. It is available to subscribers in six modules, including some which are customised and tailored to the subscribers institution.

Last year's survey attracted national press attention and formed a reliable basis for fee and student trend commentary among higher education commentators and representative bodies alike. Both the Guardian and The Times were interested in our 'price sensitivity meter', which explored how much UK students would be prepared to pay for their degrees.

This year we've taken an even more in-depth look at applicant recruitment processes and, based on user feedback, have introduced over 20 improvements including a fuller analysis on variable tuition fees. We've added sections on two hot topics: the customer relationship management (CRM) process and the impact of being environmentally friendly on a student's decision-making process. We examine how well institutions communicate with their students once they've had an offer; we look at how students use online social media as well as traditional media and ask students not only which universities they believe have the best green credentials but whether they are actually important to them. However, we have also kept the fundamental core of the study stable, providing the basis for good year-on-year trend analysis.

Fieldwork was conducted a few weeks into the first term of the students' first year while the experience of the application process was still fresh in their minds. Respondents were asked to rate, on a 1 to 5 scale, the most important factors influencing their university choice. On the same scale, using the same 49 attributes, they were asked how their chosen university had performed in practice. Along with this key choice analysis, other questions included important profiling variables such as: UCAS points, other universities applied to, offers declined, the timing of subject and institution choice, information sources consulted, links to home, location factors, distance travelled between parental home and university (based on postcodes), widening access funding (based on the POLAR database) and a marketing needs-based segmentation schema.

The open day section has been expanded to examine how much the open day experience affects the firm choice, the importance of interviews and who students attend the open day with. In addition to looking at retention, questions were also aimed at evaluating the induction process once term had started.

Students were asked to tell us in their own words why they decided not to go to their declined universities and what those institutions could have done to make themselves more appealing. We've analysed over 100,000 student comments in these open questions plus others to ensure we're listening to their issues, not ours. We've coded these answers into sensible categories in the reports but also included some of the comments in the students' own words. Along with the customised institution report (module 3) subscribers receive all the comments relating to their university.

The fees analysis (module 4) has been enhanced this year too. In addition to last year's outputs; the Optimum Price Point (OPP) and median Unique Target Price, we now also provide Price Builder Charts which provide a more detailed picture of demand at every price point.

In a competitive world, policy and action have to built on comprehensive and independent research. We are confident that Higher Expectations 2007/8 will once again help many institutions meet that need.

We've already sold over 60 modules to institutions across the country. Several modules, such as the Overview Report and Pricing Analysis Pack are available immediately and customised reports can now be prepared within two weeks. If you wish to discuss the opportunity of buying into this ground breaking study please contact Ben Marks.

For any HE bespoke research needs you have such as evaluating admissions materials or your induction process or designing or naming courses, please contact Eleanor Simmons.

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