HE Snippet 12 – What’s the only thing that has become less important in the undergraduate decision-making process?

Posted on 25th March 2014 by Youth

Research Snippets: Our monthly Research Snippets look at interesting and topical findings unearthed by the HE team at YouthSight. See all our HE Research Snippets here. If any of your colleagues would like to receive our Research Snippets, ask them to drop a line to: james.macgregor@YouthSight.com

We’ve been measuring what new undergraduate starters regard as being most important in their decision making process for 8 years.  In that time, nearly every one of the 42 factors we evaluate has grown in importance.  That is, except for the recommendations by family, teachers / careers advisors and current or previous students. In Figure 1 below we’ve indexed how importance factors have changed since 2007 (please note this excludes data for the latest version of Higher Expectations (2013/14) which gets released next month). While recommendations have become about 6% less important in that time period, the average attribute has become about 20% more important and one attribute in particular has seen an equivalent rise in importance of 64% since 2007.

Figure 1
figure1

CHO10. How important were each of these factors in your decision about which university to choose?
Lines reflect proportion of respondents who selected ‘very important’
Base: All respondents Higher Expectations; 2008/09 (12,334), 2009/10 (11,337), 2011/12 (13,050), 2012/13 (12,334).
Note, question not asked in 2010/11 so charts do not reflect a measured data point for this year

Why have recommendations alone become less important when every other broad factor heading (e.g. reputation, employability, open days, campus facilities, costs, ‘dealings with me’ and course) have become more important?  And, given we have been reporting the steady increase in parental accompaniments on open days for the past few years, why would parental recommendations be becoming less significant to students?

We think the answer mirrors what we see in a wide range of issues relating to marketing to Gen Y.  Young people have better access to information than ever before. With wide scale use of league tables, Key Information Sets, websites such at Which? and social media, they are less dependent on being ‘recommended’ where to study by parents and teachers and far more capable of making decisions independently. However, young people generally prefer to make their choices collaboratively, hence the growing number of parents accompanying their children on open days (of course, the increased cost / investment of a higher education will also be playing a role). All told, we believe these changes are part of an evolution which will serve to make open days and other university marketing communications only more important.

If you’d like to see which factor has increased most in importance (and what’s changed for all the 42 attributes measured), or you’d like to see the same for the students who attend your institution (and competitor institutions) for this year – as well as the trends over the past 8 years, drop me a line asking about Higher Expectations 2013/14.

John Newton, (Research Manager, Higher Education)

john@youthsight.com

020 7288 8789

Higher Expectations

Higher Expectations is the most comprehensive survey of new students in the UK. It provides:

  • Competitive benchmarking – your performance versus your competitors – and nearly every other UK university
  • Single-year or multi-year packages
  • Key Performance Indicator scores
  • Now including FREE presentations

 

Notes

YouthSight owns the consumer access panel for higher education: 70,000 current students, 18,000 graduates and 17,000 applicants and 10,000 other young people.We’ve completed hundreds of projects for our HE clients, helping over 90 universities and HE organisations obtain the insights and data they need to drive important decisions. We’ve helped policy bodies collect evidence for ground breaking reports, we’ve helped marketing directors develop winning strategies and we’ve helped Deans to create new early stage course propositions that genuinely meet market needs.

Our portfolio of products is based on a clear understanding of the needs of HE professionals combined with a sophisticated approach to the ‘tools of our trade’, including qualitative and quantitative interviews, regression & key driver analysis, Price Sensitivity Meter and choice-based conjoint or trade-off techniques.  Here are some of our key products and approaches:

 

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