We are pleased to publish our research into the state of college marketing in 2015, which highlights the need for college marketing to be more strategic, and to be seen as a critical business function central to long term organisational sustainability.

The survey, which was endorsed by the College Marketing Network, was completed by 122 marketing leads representing 36% of colleges in the UK. 

The research uncovered a highly professional and qualified workforce in college marketing, with 95% of those leading marketing departments, holding a relevant academic and/or professional qualification. However, the study also revealed that only 36% of those on the college executive with responsibility for marketing have any professional marketing qualifications or experience. This is reinforced by the feedback given in the study that there is a perceived lack of professional understanding of the complexities of strategic marketing and that the focus remains on operational advertising and promotion, which many see as detrimental to the effectiveness of their work and would like to see a shift-change in the value given to marketing as a strategic function.

The study also explored the approach to budgets and staffing with average marketing team sizes ranging from 4 in smaller colleges (less than £10m turnover) to 10 in larger colleges (more than £41m). Budgets however, remain relatively consistent in percentage terms, averaging at 1.8% of turnover (0.8% staff; 1% non-staff), however this is far less than public sector recommended average of 3%.

The research highlighted that investment in specialist areas such as digital marketing is lower than would be expected with only 40% reporting a specialist role for online and digital marketing and only 14% outsourcing this service externally. Most colleges are working to agreed marketing plans and are undertaking some level of market research – but there is a wide variety in how these plans are produced and the quality of research undertaken.

The survey also identified that recruitment of 16-18 years olds had increased in 56% of respondents but equally 44% of colleges experienced a decline in enrolments (2014/15).

While student recruitment remains the top priority, marketers are also concerned about increasing competition and the growing resistance from schools in providing impartial IAG and access for colleges. They would like to see support for a more innovative approach to marketing using new technology and digital strategies.

Download the infographic here. 

The detailed report has been provided free of charge to those colleges who kindly participated in the study and contains a full breakdown of each response along with analysis and best practice guidance. The report is available at a cost of £165 (plus VAT) and a reduced fee of £115 (plus VAT) for members of the College Marketing Network . Please email fiona@carthycommunications.com to request a copy.