Get switched on to who is logging on 1

August 26, 2010

If university websites are evaluated only as a marketing tool for attracting undergraduate applicants ("Deciphering the code", 19 August), there is a danger that they will become less usable for other external users, including postgraduate applicants.

Marketing of universities' research activities is particularly important in relation to websites. Apart from potential research students, those interested in this information include researchers from other institutions, research funders and business people. Website users wanting research information need to retrieve details about research groups and individual researchers, including details of publications and of grants obtained.

Portfolio Communications has found that universities too often treat information that external users want access to as "internal". This applies, for instance, to faculty events such as research seminars and, in particular, to the library catalogue. A university offering expertise in a specialist area needs to demonstrate that it has the relevant information resources.

Teesside University vice-chancellor Graham Henderson is right: there should be a clear distinction between sections of university websites for different users. This entails identifying who is accessing the site and designing quality facilities that meet all users' needs in relation to the institution's research as well as to the teaching it advertises.

Frederic Stansfield, Kent.

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