Selling a strong brand is key to university success in recruiting students, particularly postgraduates, a report says.
The reputation of an institution and its ability to sell this image to potential students are two of the most important factors in an ever-more competitive recruitment market, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit has said.
The study, carried out by MORI, focused on postgraduate recruitment, which it found to be a "fluid and expanding" market to which universities were responding by developing corporate marketing strategies.
CSU chief executive Mike Hill said: "The research clearly shows that higher education institutions are recognising the need for a branded strategy targeting the postgraduate market. They want to expand this area and are being more strategic - a huge difference from the approach a decade ago, when marketing was given little credence."
The study found that 48 per cent of the 80 or so institutions surveyed said that their postgraduate recruitment had expanded. Just over 40 per cent said it had remained stable, while 11 per cent said it had contracted.
Many institutions had a specific budgets for postgraduate recruitment and nearly half expected these to grow. The most important "selling point" overall was the course content and quality of the teaching, followed by the institution's location and its overall reputation.
For taught courses, the content and quality were key. For research courses, the reputations of individual academics were paramount. For international students, the overall reputation of an institution counted most.