As competition within the higher education sector intensifies, British universities are spending millions to market their courses to students. The Guardian conducted a freedom of information investigation, which found that lower and middle-ranking universities paid the most for marketing in an effort to attract students to fill places on their courses and bring in income via tuition fees. The University of Central Lancashire spent the most on marketing, splurging £3.4m for its 2017-18 campaign. Other high-spending universities included the University of the West of England, which spent £3m; Middlesex, which spent £2.6m; and Gloucestershire, which invested £1.9m.
A representative from Universities UK, the organization that represents 136 higher education institutions, commented that recent government policies such as the Higher Education and Research Act had aimed to create a more animated market and a focus on student preference, consequently leading to adaptations in behavior and distinctive marketing approaches across the sector.
Anglia Ruskin, among the institutions under scrutiny for their marketing expenses, affirmed that its expenditure of £1.19 million enclosed all their marketing costs, with a significant amount assigned to collaborate with schools and colleges in order to enhance social mobility.
They added: "In terms of the team that handles marketing for our institution, the 120 staff members are involved in different tasks including admissions, schools outreach, alumni engagement, and website management. A minority of the team hold conventional ‘marketing’ positions. Most are tasked with helping us fulfil our significant objectives on advancing participation."
The University of Central Lancashire justified their £3.4 million costs as the complete marketing spend on undergraduate, postgraduate, and research student initiatives, both domestically and internationally. They highlighted that their expenditure represents only 1.5% of the institution’s total revenue.