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In The Age Of Digital, Are Printed Prospectuses A Waste Of Budget And Resource? | HE Research Snippet #33

For those of you who’ve read our ‘Who is Generation Z’ Youth Culture Snippet, you’ll know that the way Gen Z consume information has changed quite a lot in comparison to...

Tags: HE Thinking

Andreanne Orsier, Higher Education Research Team
Andreanne Orsier, Higher Education Research Team

Andréanne heads up YouthSight’s Higher Education research team and helps universities drive commercial success.

For those of you who’ve read our ‘Who is Generation Z’ Youth Culture Snippet, you’ll know that the way Gen Z consume information has changed quite a lot in comparison to Millennials. Gen Z live online; they grew up alongside the digital world, keeping up to date with the news and consuming online media, dating and shopping. They’re the generation accustomed to accessing information at the touch of a button, yet ironically, according to our State of the Youth Nation data, vinyls and books seem to be making a bit of comeback.

So where does this leave the printed prospectus? Has it fallen out of touch or is it still worth a hefty chunk of your ever-shrinking marketing budget?

Using our HE Marcomms Data, we’ve found that including a printed prospectus in your communications and recruitment strategy is not only necessary, it's essential. However, there are a few boxes to tick to ensure it resonates with prospective students and boosts your chances of recruitment. We illustrate how you can make simple changes to your strategy to make the most of your printed prospectus, and finally, reveal which prospectuses have made it into the top 5 as voted by prospective students.  


The verdict: Printed prospectus are more influential than advice from parents and teachers

YouthSight’s exclusive insight product, HE Marcomms, reveals that the printed prospectus is used extensively by over a third of prospective undergraduate students starting their research into universities; making the printed prospectus the 5th most used source (amongst the 26 sources we track), ahead of advice from parents and teachers. And it is not only among the most used, it’s also the 4th most influential information source:

Top most used sources when starting research into Universities Top most influential sources when starting research into Universities
University website Open day
League tables University webste
Open day League tables
UCAS website Printed prospectus
Printed prospectus UCAS website 

YouthSight 2017, HE Marcomms dashboard. Question: When you were starting your research into universities you might apply for, which of the following sources did you use extensively to find out information?  How influential were each of the following at this stage?  Base: Applicants and Pre-Applicants,  size: n= 3,100

HE Marcomms subscribers can view how levels of importance and influence change as prospective students pick their universities in their UCAS form and their firm university choice. Click here to find out more. 

One prospective student said:

“The prospectuses provided by the universities and in UCAS conventions have had the most impact on deciding the university I'd like to study at.” Female, Pre-Applicant HE Marcomms 2017. Module: In their own words

Based on insights from our exclusive subscription products and our own research, below are three boxes to tick to make your prospectus stand-out from the masses.


1. Does your prospectus deliver all the information prospective students need?

HE Marcomms shows us that prospective students want, first and foremost, to know about the courses available on offer, so ensure your course information is clear and as detailed as possible.

graph 2-1

YouthSight 2017, HE Marcomms dashboard. Question: I think the main role of the prospectus is to… Base: Pre-Applicants & Applicants. Size: n=3,100


Specifically, HE Marcomms also reveals specifically what information prospective students seek from a prospectus at different points in time. Of the 24 information needs we track*, Entry Requirements comes out on top, with 95% of respondents stating they were looking for this in a prospectus when starting their research.

*Subscribers to HE Marcomms have access to the full list of information needs required from a prospectus by prospective students at different points in time. Does your prospectus provide everything prospective students need? Find out more about HE Marcomms.

One prospective student said:

“Most university prospectus' did not give detailed information on courses they offer - they only gave a summary. This made it more difficult to make a decision” - Female, Pre-Applicant HE Marcomms 2017. Module: “In their own words”


2. Does it feel genuine?

"I am happy with a university when they provide genuine and accurate information about the course and university itself, as opposed to exaggerating or lying to get more applicants." - Female, Applicant, South East – HE Marcomms 2017

Prospective students will turn to your prospectus not only to find out whether the course you provide is likely to be a good fit for them but also to get an idea of what their life could be like at your institution. Allow them to picture themselves in their potential new life by providing plenty of pictures showing what their experience will be like. But keep it real. Pictures of smiling students sitting under a tree might look good, but don’t say much about what life is really like on campus

"There is too much of an emphasis on selling the Uni with random stats like Top 10 Uni for graduate employability, instead of actual information” - Male, Applicant, South West – HE Marcomms 2017


3. Is it distinctive?

Or in other words, does it convey your brand values and what you stand for? Your prospectus is a way to establish what could potentially be prospective students' first impressions of your institution. Don’t miss this opportunity to set their expectations, inspire, excite and enter their consideration set. We know from our regular face-to-face sessions with students and applicants that young people are more likely to be drawn to prospectuses that stand out and give them a feel for the university’s “personality”.

Sadly, not all prospectuses hit the mark. Where HE Marcomms reveals student feedback on marketing communications in the HE sector, Higher Expectations allows us to look at insights at institutional level. It collects information on over 100 universities, also based entirely on student feedback. Check out the Top 5 “Useful and Appealing" prospectuses below. 

University name % of prospective students who rated university prospectus as 'useful and appealing'
Norwich University of the Arts 53%
University of Northampton 44%
Bournemouth University 40%
Lancaster University 40%
Teesside University 39%

YouthSight Higher Expectations, 2017. Question: I strongly agree that my institution prospectus was useful and appealing. Base: All institutions shown have a minimum base size of n=30


Not in the Top 5? We'll help you pin point where your prospectus is going wrong. Get in touch to see your 'useful and appealing' prospectus ranking for free.

See where your prospectus ranks >