All over the place – when and how to target postgrad students

Posted: 15 May 2019 - 11:58
All over the place - postgrad students
Your typical postgraduate lecture is diverse. There are working mums, retired city workers, ambitious undergraduates, and everything in between. With so much variety, how are you supposed to target this group of potential students without spreading your resources too thin?

The basics

First thing’s first, from our research, we found there are slightly more women than men, with men more likely to enrol on research degrees, and women more on taught courses.

Two thirds of all postgraduate students are taking taught degrees, with 30% of all qualifications awarded being Master of Science (MSc). PhD and MA each have a 19% share, whilst subject-specific awards for teaching and law come in at 7% and 6% respectively. 

The timing

Most undergraduates are considering their postgraduate options before they finish their first degree, with 57% telling us that they continued straight from their undergrad degree, and 21% taking a year out. When we sought to clarify this, we were told that 25% begin to consider about midway through undergraduate study, and 40% at the end of it. Depending on the starting age of each undergraduate student, this means that most postgraduates were 20 or 21 when they began to research and search for further study opportunities. 

Some didn’t need to look far. Just over half of all postgraduates chose to continue studying at their undergraduate provider, with men a little more likely to do so than women.

The influencers

Our studies have shown us that postgraduate students are far more likely to look for support from their family and friends, than their academic contacts. Perhaps a subversion of the stereotype, it seems that further study is guided most effectively through emotive and familial direction, rather than the functional and contextual supervision of tutors.

In fact, the number of students who sought advice from lecturers was only around half that of those who looked to parents, siblings and friends, highlighting the importance of including these influencers in the marketing mix. 

The targeting

We know that students looking into postgraduate opportunities are very open to receiving marketing updates via email, from universities, and from UCAS. We also know the majority (90%) of those students look into the opportunities sent to them, and almost 40% tell us their final postgraduate choice was influenced by this marketing.

Which means that the difficult, or most integral, task of university marketing teams is getting postgraduate prospects signed up in the first place. 58% of them sign up with universities individually, and directly. Of this, 38% do it online via a university’s website, and 20% in person at an open day. UCAS is the most popular non-university resource, with 19% of all postgraduate students using it for postgraduate research. UCAS is also the most popular non-university resource for a student’s more active research into postgraduate opportunities, both in looking for basic facts and for more detailed information.

UCAS research 2019: Mapping out postgraduate decision-making


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