Curtis Associates Research Ltd
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No Budget, No Surveys - Is This The Right Way Forward?

‘Times are hard’, ‘budgets are tight’, ‘cutbacks are the order of the day’ – Does any of this sound familiar?

It’s a difficult time for universities. On the face of it, everything bar the essential is being dropped and those that preserve budgets are hailed heroes.

But can all non-essential services be cutback to nothing?

Arguably there are some areas where cutbacks can be made with little or no discernable impact on the quality of the student experience.

Putting off the new logo re-design or the mega website overhaul may be prudent when times are tough. In tough times, most agree that the budget spend should be ploughed into improvements to the student experience with tangible and measurable results.  But which service investment will bring the most improvement to the student experience?

Making the connection to student satisfaction by determining the importance of services is vital to enable budgets to be spent wisely.

The introduction of higher student fees is viewed by some as an opportunity to support existing revenue streams whilst still maintaining student numbers and academic success.

One area that might be seen as an obvious cutback is that of student satisfaction surveys, focus groups and, in fact, market research in general.

But is it the right decision?

At first glance, and from a purely cash stance, cutting back these areas might be a tempting thing to do.

However, beware because there is a deeper implication.

As students are expected to pay more for a place at university so it follows that they will expect better services and student experience.

And this is where universities can invest wisely, by continuing with a focused program of market research. In the long run, the rewards will be high.

For example:

Building a year on year online survey aimed specifically at understanding the quality and satisfaction with university services gives vital information with which the university can make rational investments. These can be used to promote the university to future students, both supporting and underpinning student fees.

Students will be looking closely at the university provision and the quality of the services provided. When deciding where to study, the prospective student needs to be armed with impartial information that clearly demonstrates high satisfaction levels.

They will also be looking at several of the many other information sources available, so it is imperative that the university is ready to support their position with their own information as given by their own students.

It’s a win-win too. Students are more likely to take the views of previous students over and above many other information sources. Peer approval and recommendation has been shown many times to be a prime motivator for final decisions.

And it can be done very cost effectively.

The skill is in asking all the right questions, but only analysing the key questions to keep within the budget.

In the future and as budgets expand, there is an opportunity to go back and re-visit or expand upon previous analysis.  But the crux of the matter is gathering the data in the first place and not making false, and sometimes expensive, economies.


It might be seen to be financially prudent to drop all market research projects to save budget.

However, as the pressure grows to maintain student numbers , a focused approach to gathering student experience data could take you one step ahead of your competitors.

And that’s where we all want to be.

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