Focus on student satisfaction to boost university brand, says study

New research shows the importance of fostering a ‘personal connection’ with students

June 23, 2016
Personal connection with students
Source: iStock
Universities should tailor brand enhancement strategies to students' needs

Universities should focus on building a “personal connection” with students rather than concentrating on prestige to promote their brands, new research has found.

The authors of “The role of brand attachment strength in higher education”, published in the Journal of Business Research, also found that this “customer-orientated” approach should extend to graduates as well as to current students if universities are to build their brands.

“Universities’ positioning strategies may be focusing too much on building prestige, whereas strategies aimed at improving student satisfaction could have more positive effects on brand equity,” the paper concludes.

Eleftherios Alamanos, one of the co-authors and lecturer in marketing at Newcastle University, told Times Higher Education that while universities’ dedication to “degree quality and quality of staff” were essential, they should zone in on the individual student’s experience to enhance their attachment to the brand.

One of the key findings, he said, was that there was a negative relationship between brand attachment strength and student satisfaction, indicating that the more attached a student becomes to an institution, the more difficult it is for them to be satisfied.

“What satisfies a student in the first year may not satisfy them in the third year,” he said.

“The best solution to that is to try and understand what is important to students in their life in the university. The main contribution of our work is the importance of the brand’s meaning on the overall perceptions of the students – the personal connection that students develop with the university where they’re studying.

“The thing universities are missing and tend to get wrong is building on this personal connection. They focus too much on keeping the students satisfied [in some areas], for example by focusing on degree quality and staff – which is absolutely important, don’t get me wrong – but our argument is, if they put efforts into building the personal connection, the results will be even better.”

Dr Alamanos said that the rewards of improving the personal connection that students had with a university were manifold.

“It’s really important keeping this connection, because the commitment can take many forms – donating to the university, not only in terms of money, but the personal time (coming in as a guest lecturer), sharing experiences with the students,” he said. 

The study, which surveyed more than 600 students and graduates from the US, could easily be applied to UK institutions because there weren’t “massive differences” between the two sectors, Dr Alamanos said.

When asked whether he thought UK universities were addressing this issue, he said that “many were doing very well in terms of their brands in the global market” where they’re competing with European and US institutions.

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham