When choosing a university for a postgraduate degree, reputation becomes more important for many prospective postgraduates. YouthSight’s syndicated study, PGT Plus, shows that many prospective postgraduates try to ‘trade up’ and go to a more prestigious university for their master’s degree.
We believe the new PGT loan available to students from August 2016 will further intensify this tendency. Therefore, universities will need to think harder about offering more attractive discounts and incentives to their current undergraduates, to incent them to stay. Institutions, especially less research intensive ones, may find that the ante starts going up.
FIG. 1 – PERCENTAGE THAT WOULD CHOOSE A MORE PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY FOR PGT STUDY
Data from PGT Plus 2015/16 for question: Q18b. Why would you definitely not consider your undergraduate university? Selected answer option: Other institutions have better reputation. Only asked of considerers of PGT study that answered 6 or above on a 10pt scale on interest in PGT and said they would definitely not consider UG institution for postgraduate study. Base size of question: 251. PGT Plus is run every year in September/October.
When current undergraduate students think about choosing the right university for a PGT qualification, they face the choice of either continuing at their undergraduate institution, or choosing a completely new university. YouthSight’s PGT Plus survey shows that two in five (41%) prospective PGT students not considering their undergraduate institution say their reason for not doing so, was because other universities had a better reputation. For students in their final year of undergraduate study, this number increases to 48%. Similarly, differences can be detected by institution type (see chart above). In essence, many students turn down their undergraduate institution because they want to go to a more prestigious university for their postgraduate degree.
PGT loan further intensifies desire to trade up
This year, PGT Plus 2015/16 also includes questions on how the new government loan for postgraduate study available from August 2016 influences considerers’ behaviour. Our data (captured in September/October 2015) shows that the PGT loan is likely to further intensify this emphasis on reputation. More than a quarter of all respondents say the loan would make them ‘more likely’ to choose a more prestigious university. Again, this desire to ‘trade up’ is particularly strong for final year undergraduate students. Among them, the number increases to 36%. They are more mobile as location plays a less important role when considering whether or not to remain at their undergraduate institution compared to less recent graduates. They are also more demanding in their decision-making process generally and place more value on employability and reputation in their university choice.
FIG2 – PERCENTAGE THAT WOULD CHOOSE A MORE PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY AS EFFECT OF LOAN
Data from PGT Plus 2015/16 for question: Q27c. Would the availability of the proposed loan affect your choice of institution in any of the following ways? Selected answer option: I would choose a more prestigious university. Only asked of considerers of PGT study that answered 6 or above on a 10pt scale on interest in PGT. Base size: 1817. PGT Plus is run every year in September/October.
What does this mean for your university?
We believe this implies that after the introduction of the new PGT loan, universities will have to work even harder to retain their current undergraduates for postgraduate study. With more students considering more prestigious universities, particularly current final year undergraduates, universities may need to offer improved financial packages and more careful marketing to convince this most demanding group, to stay. If a strong case can be made in the areas of employability and reputation, this offers great scope to retain current undergraduate students. Customer retention is nearly always cheaper than customer acquisition.
PGT Plus can help
Our study PGT Plus 2016/17 allows you to react to the changing market and discover the best way of pricing and marketing to current undergraduates (plus other groups) interested in doing a PGT degree.