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Brexit prep: get clearer on what you have to offer today

 

We first worked with Pernille when she was at LSE’s Marshall Institute, busy building them a communications strategy from scratch. Between us we created the department a brand identity, and we were so impressed by Pernille’s strategic mind that we’ve been working together ever since. 

That’s why we’ve invited Pernille to explore the challenges facing higher education today in this series of articles. So make yourself comfortable and consider what your sector can do to embrace the changes ahead. 

If you work in higher education, you know there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. On 29 March we passed the one-year countdown to Brexit and we still don’t know what the consequences will be. On top of that, the government’s review of fees could lessen the income of universities to the tune of £3.3 billion annually  

While it’s tempting to panic, don’t.

 

There are (at least) two things you can do today to start preparing. Both will help you no matter what happens in the coming months and years.

1.     Start developing income sources not related to student fees.

2.     Get really clear on what you have to offer students: your value proposition. 

I will talk more about generating alternative income in my next article and focus on value proposition here.

If you want to continue to attract (international) students you have to be very clear on why they should come to your university. What are you offering that they can’t get at another university or somewhere cheaper in Europe?

Your university and marketing team has probably done a lot of work and written a beautiful mission and/or vision statement, but they don’t give potential students the full picture. While they probably think it’s all fine, they want to know what’s in it for them.

To enhance your value proposition ask yourself the following questions

Working through the questions, you may find that some of them feel similar. That’s okay. The idea is to look at your value proposition from different angles until it is clear and concise.

1. There are thousands of reputable business degrees out there (just to take an example). How is what you offer different? 

2. What will I be able to do, be and have when I get my degree at your university that I wouldn’t be able to do, be or have if I studied somewhere else?


3. What do you do differently? What makes you unique?

4. As a human being, how will I grow by studying with you? 

5. What do you do better than anyone else? 

Maybe you need more than one value proposition if there is a significant different in what you offer undergraduate and post-graduate students. That’s fine too. Just make sure that the two propositions are aligned so you don’t confuse anyone.

Get an outside view from someone not in your marketing department

If you struggle to answer any of the questions above ask your colleagues, your faculty, your students and your alumni. They know. Their answers may vary depending on who they are and their relation to your university, but there will be commonalities and a thread running through it. Work on developing those.

Knowing your value proposition is not enough. You also need to tell you prospective students, collaborators and employees. Let your value statement permeate all your communications and marketing materials from prospectuses to internal communications.

At University of St Andrews, they highlight the unique location of the university on the Scottish coast, their long history and the active community built by and for all students. You can read their value proposition here .

University of Portsmouth has only existed in its current form for 25 years, so there is not much tradition or reputation to build on. Instead they focus on their close relationship with employers and the excellent track record their career services have for getting graduates jobs. Read their value proposition here .

Accepting students of any religion and women as equals to men is part of UCL’s heritage and they have incorporated this in their value proposition. They believe university is for everyone and that even as a student you can make a difference in the world. Watch the video on this page to see how they communicate this.

If you are not sure how to develop your value proposition and communicate it, get someone to facilitate the process for you. Someone who can see your organisation from the outside and listen to what people on the inside are saying.

Pernille Norregaard is a communications expert with over 15 years’ experience and a longstanding friend of the Consider family. She specialises in communications management in purpose-driven organisations and Higher Education. Read more here .