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Little things mean a lot

It is no surprise that students choose universities on more than simply academic grounds. Those who have observed the process - or remember their own criteria - will know that location, facilities and even the reputation of the night life can all exert a powerful influence. The quality of the course and campus may still be the top priority for most applicants but, as research reported last week showed, apparently small things can be crucial. A poorly run open day, for example, can put off students.

Many academics resent the marketing of the modern university, but it will become increasingly important in the era of top-up fees. And academics are likely to play a greater part if, as seems inevitable, potential students (and their parents) become more assiduous in the way they research higher education options. The personal visit, as well as more detailed questioning during the sifting process, is to become more common.

The success of Strathclyde University in the survey shows that students will look beyond leafy campuses and high league-table positions when an institution is welcoming and good at projecting its strengths. That requires a team effort, even if some team members are less comfortable than others with the role.

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