It was brave for Philip Moriarty to argue that university marketing approaches need to stop insulting the intelligence of students (“Words fail us: marketing-speak damages the brand”, Opinion, 24 September). I think that this is particularly the case for the postgraduate market in the UK.
The Postgraduate Experience Project, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, found that postgraduates wanted honesty in the marketing of courses and not spin. They needed to know the possible pitfalls that they could face studying at this level and how they could overcome them, but for many this had not been their experience. Marketing processes built up the promise of a high quality student experience that was often not delivered. Emma Pollard from the Institute of Employment Studies, who was project steering group member, summed it up nicely: “Undergraduates are naive shoppers, postgraduates are savvy consumers.”
We have to take responsibility for the conduct of our marketing departments, who have been driving the credential inflation of qualifications in the UK. Marketing courses on the basis that students who obtain a postgraduate qualification will stand out from the crowd and provide the skills that employers are seeking is not accurate and is irresponsible marketing. A postgraduate qualification is a rung on the ladder of lifelong learning, as the late Sir David Watson always stated, and with the increasing evidence that employers of all sizes want relevant work experience and a qualification is “nice”, Moriarty’s argument that marketing approaches need to be rethought is logical and sensible.
Principal investigator and project leader, Postgraduate Experience Project,
Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice, Kingston University
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