Curtis Associates Research Ltd
Higher Education and Industrial Research Market Research, Database Management and Business Development Services

Modelling the Demand for Masters Degrees

Client need:
The issue of whether or not there is an opportunity to develop taught masters courses for post graduate recruitment comes under scrutiny in this market research study.  Masters courses can provide a platform for further research study, which might be either a PhD, or a qualification used in the job market to demonstrate that the holder possess high level generic skills as well as advanced specialist knowledge.  Our client had no such courses available, and needed to understand the demand as well as the way students regarded masters degrees: the attractions, the inhibitors and students’ preferences for course options.

Market research objectives:
To determine whether there is a demonstrable demand for a taught postgraduate course amongst current undergraduate students.
To understand the issues that govern students’ perceptions of taught postgraduate courses.

There were many possible methods for obtaining the primary research data, ranging from face to face interviews to questionnaires.  Whilst individual interviews would have revealed a wealth of qualitative information, the time and cost involved would have made the study lengthy and very expensive.  At the other end of the spectrum, a simple postal questionnaire would have been cheap but there are issues concerning the response rates as well as some practical concerns involved with transcription of the surveys.  After careful consideration, it was decided to conduct an internet based survey, with all students being asked to complete a simple questionnaire that was hosted on our web site.  The questionnaire was a hybrid qualitative and quantitative document. 

Key outcomes:
There was a tangible demand for masters courses from students wishing to gain advantage over their peer group when it comes to getting a job.  Understanding this and the size of the demand allowed our client to judge the viability of the courses.  There were varying levels of interest in different disciplines, and again, this is crucial to know when developing new courses.  
There was a major hurdle to overcome though, and that was cost.  This was clearly a powerful issue that drives students to make polarised decisions, abandoning the middle ground.

Using market research to separate the issues in a highly complex area clearly brought rewards to our client who was able to take forward the design and introduction of those courses that showed viability.

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