The provision of world class University sports facilities
Over recent years there has been a significant re-balancing of the way in which UK Universities are funded. In practice, though the absolute level of non-research University revenue has not changed significantly, the source of much of that income is now being shouldered directly by students, most of whom are undergraduates. Because of the more visible linkage between tuition fees and the services offered to students, most Universities are concentrating on improving all aspects of their offering. The objective is to secure future student numbers through the quality and breadth of provision.
Our client, one the UK’s leading Universities, was undertaking a root and branch re-evaluation of the many aspects that go to make up University life. This included critical reassessments of infrastructure, accommodation and facilities (including sport) provisions.
Market research objectives:
To investigate how The University’s current sports provision serves its students.
To gain an understanding of how that impacts on the student experience.
To inform on what shape future developments should take.
This was a qualitative piece of research since the success of the client’s development would rest with student perceptions of the delivery and extent of the sports provisions. The most appropriate method for the primary research was that of focus groups. However, before any groups could be recruited it was necessary to classify potential respondents demographically as well as by their prevailing attitudes and participation levels in organised physical activity. This would ensure that account could be taken of the different ‘voices’ in the student population. As usual, respondents were careful screened at the point of recruitment to ensure representative balance was achieved.
There was a surprisingly wide range of participation levels amongst respondents, but individual’s involvement did not necessarily mirror that of their earlier school careers. The reasons for these changes in participation were explored as was the value of specific improvements. This allowed our client to redirect resources to achieve targeted levels of involvement.
Looked at from a slightly different perspective, respondents’ expectations were examined with respect to their perceptions of the delivery of the provision. This allowed our client to gain a clear view as to where to provision resources to maximise the impact of any changes. Through this mechanism, a programme of enhancements was proposed along with expectations of changes in student attitudes.
The market research results presented to our client identified those aspects of the provision which were necessary to change. This was important not only to address targeted participation levels but also to demonstrate increased levels of student satisfaction through positive, directed investment.