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With the recent shifts in the educational sphere, the marketisation of higher education receives growing recognition. Due to the fact that the higher education is not compulsory, applicants receive much freedom in their educational choices and according to the results of the latest studies, need to be treated as customers.
The popularity of every university in Great Britain depends upon not only its educational models and historical reputation, but also marketing strategies and branding of the institution. Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, Durham and London School of Economics as the recognized top universities in Great Britain must have implied the most effective marketing strategies for establishing their status and preserving it for such a long time.
The universities of Great Britain are known all over the world and attract students from all the corners of the globe. The high quality of education and the potential employment after graduating from these institutions are the influential factors affecting the popularity of these universities.
However, with the variety of newly arising educational institutions and the intense competition in the sector, even the most prestigious universities need to impose measures for preserving their status and attracting the potential applicants. This study will explore the students’ perception of the most popular universities in Great Britain and determine the major influential factors affecting the perceived market value of these institutions.
Within the recent decades, the market architecture and the main driving forces of the UK higher education have undergone significant changes. The enhanced marketisation of the UK higher education was the direct consequence of the highly competitive environment, which predetermined the shift towards treating students as consumers and implementing the marketing strategies for drawing and sustaining the applicants’ attention.
Taking into account the fact that universities belong to the sector of non-compulsory education, it can be stated that the decisions of potential applicants can be manipulated through the implementation of various marketing techniques.
There is evidence that the students’ education choices are traditionally limited with the specific market arenas which can be predetermined geographically but more often are the consequence of the brand and the perceived market value of a particular institution.1
It means that the rankings of a particular university and the overall picture of the most popular universities in the UK will to certain extent depend upon not only the educational models and previous achievements but also the marketing strategies used by educational managers.
Regarding the students’ satisfaction with their higher education experience, there is evidence that it depends upon a number of variables, including the individuals’ overall experience during the student life.2 Taking into account the fact that sharing their opinions, students contribute to the image of their institution greatly, it should be noted that the organization of the students’ life is another influential factor affecting the universities’ rating.
Moreover, there is evidence that it is essential to differentiate between the students’ satisfaction with the quality of educational programs and the acquired knowledge, discipline and the level of the university in general.3
Thus, the students’ views concerning the most popular universities in Great Britain depend upon the variety of factors, including not only the educational models but also the marketing strategies and branding of the institution, which need to be taken into consideration for evaluating the results of the students’ survey adequately.
The questionnaire survey was conducted among fifty last year undergraduate students. The participants were provided with a list of the UK institutions and were offered to select five of them which in their opinion are the most popular and most desirable, labeling each of the university with a number from 1 to 5 from the most popular to the least popular institution in their opinion.
Them comparing the achieved results with the results of the National Student Survey, it will be possible to estimate the role of the geographical limitations upon the formation of the students; attitudes and perception.
The sample included 25 girls and 25 boys, with the equal proportion of the top and underachieving students. The 10 participants (5 boys and 5 girls) were combining their studies and a part-time job. The 10 participants (5 boys and 5 girls) were international students enrolled into the exchange educational programs.
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The study design was aimed at exploring the students’ perception of the market value of specific universities all over Great Britain. The choice of the participants was aimed to represent the demographical situation so that to minimize the possible biases, which can however be caused by the geographical limitations of the study design.
Ethical considerations were essential for exploring the students’ specific education choices and rakings of the market value of the most popular universities in Great Britain.
First, the written consent for answering the questionnaires was received from every participant. Focusing on personal preferences in education, this survey is related to a number of ethical issues. To begin with, the answers of undergraduate students will reflect their attitudes towards the institution they are attending.
Moreover, this issue will correspond with their satisfaction with the educational processes in their institution. To prevent possible biases caused by the students’ fear of possible consequences of participating in the survey and expressing negative views concerning their institution, the students need to be certain that the results of the survey will be used for the research purposes only and will not be disclosed to any third parties, including the administration and the teaching staff of their university.
It is significant that the rankings should be used for determining the most influential factors affecting the students’ perception, preferences and choices, thus, defining the underlying causes of their possible dissatisfaction instead of penalizing them for the expressed opinions.
The ethical practices need to be taken into consideration not only for designing the research in a proper way but also for ensuring the participants’ safety and minimizing the impact of possible unfair answers. A letter covering the issues of the ethical considerations in analyzing and estimating the research results need to be attached to the consent form provided to all the participants.
Results and discussion
Analyzing the results retrieved from the questionnaires, it can be stated that there were no significant deviations between the university choices and their corresponding perceived market value in the participants and the results of the National Survey.
According to the results of the survey, Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, Durham and London School of Economics were recognized as the most popular higher education institutions in Great Britain (placed from the most popular to the least popular one).
As compared to the results of the National Survey, the only difference was that the London School of Economics was ranked as 4th in the National Survey and as 5th in this local survey. Consequently, Durham was on the 5th place in the National Survey list and on the 4th place in the list of the local research. This slight deviation can be explained with the geographical limitations of the local education markets.
Taking into account the fact that there were only insignificant differences between the results of the surveys, it can be stated that the impact of the geographical boundaries is less significant than the marketing efforts for the perceived value of particular institutions. Oxford and Cambridge as the two top institutions in both lists are the recognized leaders with established reputation of high-quality education services.
The high level of these universities is doubtless and is recognized by not only education professionals, but also its graduates and all those students who ranked it as the number one in the UK education market. It should be noted that these institutions obviously use the marketing strategies for preserving their reputation and complying with the demands of the highly competitive environment.
Taking into account that the present-day potential applicants should be treated as customers, it can be stated that their interests are considered by the top institutions, which allows them preserving their status of educational leaders.
Regardless of the fact that the study design was intended to minimize the impact of possible biases and unfair answers, this research still can be characterized with a number of limitations. First, the convenience sampling was used for this study.
In other words, all the participants of the survey study in one university, and this design was chosen for convenience. It is possible that common educational background could affect the students’ perception of the top universities popularity. However, taking into account the fact that defining the impact of the geographical boundaries was one of the purposes in this survey, this approach can be regarded as appropriate for testing the hypothesis.
In general, it can be concluded that a variety of underlying factors can affect the perceived market value of a particular educational institution. According to the results of this research corresponding with the results of the National Survey, Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, Durham and London School of Economics are the recognized top universities in Great Britain.
These results clearly demonstrate not only the quality of education models applied in these institutions but also the effectiveness of the market research and further measures imposed by these universities.
J Douglas, ‘The development of a conceptual model of student satisfaction with their experience in higher education’, Quality Assurance in Education, vol 16, iss. 1: p. 19 – 35.
H Marsh & J Cheng, National student survey of teaching in UK universities: Dimensionality, multilevel structure, and differentiation at the level of university and discipline: preliminary results, Higher Education Academy, Nottingham, 2008.
M Molesworth, R Scullion, & L Nixon, The marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer. Routledge, New York, 2011.
1 M Molesworth, R Scullion, & L Nixon, The marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer. Routledge, New York, 2011, 35.
2 J Douglas, ‘The development of a conceptual model of student satisfaction with their experience in higher education’, Quality Assurance in Education, vol 16, iss. 1: p. 19.
3 H Marsh & J Cheng, National student survey of teaching in UK universities: Dimensionality, multilevel structure, and differentiation at the level of university and discipline: preliminary results, Higher Education Academy, Nottingham, 2008, 33.