Marketing without the gimmicks

16th December 2011 at 00:00

Competition in recruitment between schools and colleges is nothing new ("By hook or by crook", 9 December). Some years ago as an FE marketing manager, I was invited to a school recruitment fair by the deputy head whom we worked in partnership with, but I was promptly thrown out by the newly appointed head who was horrified to walk into the room and find local colleges were there to "poach his students". On the other hand, our FE college also ran a "Sixth Form Centre", branded as such to attract higher funding, so you could perhaps see his point.

Competition and a marketplace are not the underlying problem. Higher education has competition and a marketplace, but I doubt if many would advocate abolishing Ucas and making all students go to the university chosen for them by their school or the state. It's the abuse of the marketing discipline here that is so worrying. Good education marketing is as much about retention and achievement as it is about initial enrolment figures. "Satisfied" customers should be defined in terms of the long-term outcome: students who achieve and have an education and skills that give them success throughout their lives.

The use of inducements, "bling" as you call it, is also not new, but if high value items are used that is worrying both as a waste of money, promoting an acceptance of forms of bribery, and creating the potential for high drop-out rates.

Students will join courses based on good quality, timely, impartial information. They don't need gimmicks.

Leigh Horton, Freelance marketing consultant.

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