What criteria do students adopt to choose an educational institution for higher education? There are more than 10,000 higher educational institutes in India. It has become essential to attract potential students with new cost-effective avenues. In my opinion two factors which lead to a good enrolment number in universities and colleges are; firstly, the core product ( Service) which the educational institutions have to offer and second is the marketing tactics used to reach out to the potential candidates.
By core product I mean the value proposition of the university. This refers to the courses offered , the pedagogy, infrastructure such as a well-stocked library, online or offline and the quality of teaching. Student placement is indeed the most important factor that determines enrolments and constitutes an essential part of the value offered by the institution. Placements are determined by the quality of the outgoing students. Quality of students depends on the quality of experience which students have on the campus. Alumni become the brand ambassadors of the institution. The word-of-mouth publicity is the most effective marketing tool for educational institutions, but it calls for sincere efforts by the institution to offer a superior student experience. Quality education can be ensured through a contemporary course curriculum which is relevant to the industry. In India there is a gap between what industry requires and what students learn through their education. Exceptional student experience can be created through superior quality of teaching. Education must be contemporary, supported with current know how and technology . The faculty must be updated at all times about the developments in their specific fields. The teaching load should take into account the time required for professional development of the teaching faculty, which is a valuable investment that reflects in superior teaching quality.
Appropriate marketing strategy is important for reaching out to the students in a market which is crowded with large number of players, each promising good quality education and placements. Visibility of the institution is a crucial factor and has to be addressed through marketing efforts. In a digital era, the institutions can directly reach the palm tops of their target customer, which sounds interesting to those who have witnessed a non-digital era when educational institutes appeared on the print media alone. However, mere accessibility is not a factor to be cheered because the digital space is overcrowded which makes it even more challenging to stand out.
It is important to understand how the youth consumes the information on the digital platforms. Current generation finds videos more interesting, they want to hear and not read. They look for quick information and cannot wait, which makes it important to make use of technology for prompt interaction with the prospective students, to answer their queries. Gone are the days of heavy paper work and long application forms, the online and easy application process can help in attracting students. Institutions must make use of Social media for student engagement, SEO( search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) for being found on top of all the searches. Use of data analytics brings clarity about the quality of marketing efforts being made by highlighting factors such as the efficacy of various platforms in terms of their reach and engagement with the target customers. Data analytics enables the institutions to be better informed about whether their marketing dollars are well spent.
While marketing is essential for attracting students, it can not be effective in the absence of a sound value proposition. If the quality of student experience is of low grade, the institution will gradually see a decline in enrolments, year after year and also a degradation in the quality of students they attract. This is a slow process which is triggered by the word-of-mouth publicity by the alumni who have had a first-hand experience of the institution.
Written by Rohini Vaishnavi ( Founder – R V Learning Foundation)