What’s the Only Thing that has Become Less Important in Undergraduate Decision-Making? | HE Snippet #12

HE Thinking | 25 Mar 2014


We’ve been measuring what new undergraduate starters regard as being most important in their decision making process for 11 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. Let's dive into the data and explain how this came about.

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
figure1CHO10. 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.


Where should HE professionals focus their budget on instead?

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 – give the HE Team a call on 020 7374 0997, or send us an enquiry.

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