The world of higher education is constantly changing – and not just as a result of the unprecedented events of the past 12 months. From a broader perspective, there is a steady increase in the number of people entering higher education. These include students from both developed and developing nations, and encompass all types of learning, whether campus-based, online or a combination of the two.
Rising education levels bring obvious benefits to society and to economies. But more directly, the changing education landscape brings growth opportunities for educational institutions.
By 2030, global household expenditure on education, meaning direct spending by students and their families, is expected to rise by US$ 200 billion.
Why market research?
The education landscape is becoming increasingly competitive, and as educational institutions seek growth opportunities, they must look beyond the scopes, demographics and geographies that might have seemed obvious a decade ago.
Expanding to offer digital solutions and reaching out to global markets is fine, but universities first need to understand their prospective students in terms of who they are, where they are, what they need and who is paying for their education. Beyond that, they must also know what other options are out there, and what special or value-added offerings those alternatives might bring to the table.
Market research is the tool that provides the answers to these questions. These answers allow education leaders to make informed strategic decisions relating to various aspects of course design. These might include the courses to offer, how to deliver them, at whom to target them, how to price them competitively, what peripheral student support services to provide and lots more.
Market analysis is the broad term we use for activities designed to identify the segments, or geographies that offer the best growth opportunities. We use a variety of tools to measure and assess different criteria that might be connected with economic trends, student profiling, local industry needs and so on.
By gathering market intelligence, we can also identify complementary offerings that can be added to existing educational portfolios. For example, not so long ago, the worlds of K12, higher education and continuing professional development (CPD) were very different. Today, we see more and more educational providers operating across all three segments. Vertical integration between the three is logical and is becoming commonplace. Now more than ever, all need to consider different delivery methods including classroom, distance learning and blended learning.
Any strategy that ignores what other actors in the industry are doing is tantamount to proceeding with at least one eye shut. Identifying how competitors approach everything from recruitment to marketing provides pointers towards best practice, and also delivers insights on whether there are competitive barriers to entry or perhaps market gaps that represent growth opportunities.
Staying appraised under changing conditions
Market research provides educational institutions with the insights they need in order to understand the key opportunities in the educational landscape, as well as the biggest challenges. Armed with this information, they are ideally positioned, not only to enjoy growth, but even more critically, to provide students and prospective students with the learning experience that they want and need in the 21st century.