Prospective students are exposed to abundant choices, and they are eagerly searching for information to select the best universities for themselves. Likewise, prospectuses are regularly produced by universities to meet this information needs; the purpose of this paper is to examine the key marketing messages used in their prospectuses.
The 2017 undergraduate prospectuses of 121 universities in the UK (out of the 134 members of University UK) were thematically analysed using NVivo10.
Messages were predominantly about the location, the course, student experience, credibility and career progression. They are framed in an appealing way, filled with facts and figures, images of beautiful buildings and smiling students, testimonials of facilities and experiences that form a sense of compatibility and belonging.
This study provides insights for the higher educational institutions to enhance their future marketing communications strategies in terms of effectively differentiating one university from another by highlighting the predominantly used appeals among 121 prospectuses and the need for adopting a more consistent approach between the clearing period and non-clearing period in terms of designing the prospectuses. This study has considered only the print platform, and therefore future studies should also look at social media and university websites in the context of the integrated marketing communications.
Accurate and coherent narratives should be provided, taking into consideration the diverse nature of target audience. Universities need to realise that they can be held responsible for the promises presented in their prospectuses. Using the city appeal by many universities may be challenging, as there is need to attract students not just to the city itself, but to the university’s campus.
Having a significantly larger sample than any other previous studies in this field, the empirical evidence provided in this paper is rich and in-depth, thanks to the size and age of the sample as well as the integrated and combined methodological approach. Five keys themes with sub-themes, descriptions and examples were provided, suitable for future research in higher education marketing.
Mogaji, E. and Yoon, H. (2019), "Thematic analysis of marketing messages in UK universities’ prospectuses", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 33 No. 7, pp. 1561-1581. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-05-2018-0149Download as .RIS
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