Postgrad differences that matter – taught vs. research

Posted: 13 Sep 2018 - 09:30
Postgraduate differences that matter UCAS Media
Understanding the triggers that help inform decisions with this hard-to-reach audience, and acknowledging the differences that matter with the audiences you’re communicating with, can make a real difference to the performance of your campaign. Our research, commissioned to understand the decision-making process for students considering postgraduate study, has revealed some interesting insights.

Research: Target students earlier

Timing your campaigns is as important as targeting them. For those studying research postgraduate degrees, research starts two – five years before the course does, and the application seven – 12 months before. Coupled with the fact these students are most likely to go straight into postgraduate study, and likely to be slightly older than their taught degree counterparts, your messaging needs to start when these students are 18 – 20 years old, and your real push should begin a year before the course start date.

Students on taught postgraduate degrees start considering their course a year before it starts, and apply three – six months prior.


Taught: Focus on finance

Ongoing study puts more pressure on budgets, there’s no escaping it. But for students looking into taught postgraduate degrees, it’s a greater psychological burden than those on research degrees. Postgraduate loans and lower tuition fees are important influencers for taught degree students, while the desire to earn money instead of incurring debt is a huge turn-off. Clearly, messaging for this group needs to be supportive, and provide information about the myriad funding options, and the ROI on postgraduate study.

For research postgraduate students, financial worries were not as prevalent, but the availability of funding (as opposed to student loans) featured highly in motivating factors.  


Research: Get emotional

Never forget the human element. Each student will have their own reasons for studying or not studying, but our research generally shows that those on research degrees have a more emotive connection to their studies. For example, their love of the subject and desire to further their knowledge ranked more highly than the practical drivers taught degree students spend time considering, like financial implications and career opportunities.

Optimise your campaigns to focus on these very distinct drivers.


Taught: Blow your own trumpet

It goes without saying that university rankings have an impact on student attraction, but in our postgraduate research, we’ve found taught degree students value it more highly. Both the reputation and accreditation of individual courses emerged as important factors for taught students when choosing a university and course, more so than those on research degrees.

Don’t be afraid to increase, or tone down your focus on rankings and reviews, based on the group you’re trying to attract.


Research: Engage with tutors

We also found postgraduate research students have better working relationships with, or are more heavily influenced by their subject tutors. In our survey, the impact of tutor advice and encouragement was significantly higher for research degree students.

Make sure these key stakeholders are engaged and equipped with everything they need, particularly if you’re targeting your own undergraduates. Equally, a campaign aimed at tutors from other providers may be of merit when considering the recruitment of research postgraduates from other universities.


Fine tune your marketing

We’re in the perfect position to support universities and colleges wanting to speak to, and support the verified student audience, with opportunities that will make their next step a confident one.
For more information on any aspect of our postgraduate research, or to find out how we can connect your organisation to this important audience with our postgraduate solution, please call 01242 544 881, or email ucasmedia@ucas.ac.uk.
 

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