The jarring mantra of estate agents location, location, location has less resonance
where universities are concerned. Research has shown that students place most emphasis on the
content of the course when filling in their UCAS form, before going on to consider the
institutions reputation and its distance from home.
Yvonne Moogan, a senior marketing lecturer at Liverpool Business School, spent four years tracking
sixth-formers through the application process. She found that although course content was
initially the key factor, its importance lessened after applicants visited universities.
Location became increasingly important as students looked at factors such as leisure, socialising
and accommodation,she says. Her survey highlighted a range of social and sexual differences:
girls were more fastidious with their research, while males displayed greater confidence about
the decisions they reached.
She also found that male pupils in independent schools were more likely to place a premium on the
reputation of the university, while stronger students tended to listen to their parents advice:
weaker candidates were more influenced by their teachers and took longer to make up their minds.
Although the respondents said that their most important source of reference was the university
prospectus, many complained that it was not sufficiently user-friendly. They often dont detail
the aspects which become more important to applicants later in the process such as social
life and the general facilities, she says. They often dont say how a course is assessed: if
pupils have taken GNVQs rather than A-levels, they will want to know if a course relies
entirely on final exams. This clarity is particularly important for candidates whose families do
not have a tradition of going to university.
There is also a strong argument for a separate parents prospectus, explaining the things that they
are more likely to want to know about, such as drugs and pastoral care.
But she adds that the survey is encouraging. œIt shows that students take university seriously and
choose courses they feel will benefit them, while aiming to broaden their experiences by moving
to exciting and vibrant destinations