HE Marketing Outlook 2023

The new year has arrived and with it, a chance to project what’s in store for HE Marketing in 2023. Our in-house HE experts have put together a few thoughts on what to expect in the coming year and how to best adapt.

Before we jump into 2023, let’s recap the lessons we’ve learned from 2022’s biggest disruptors. For the education sector, these are shifts in behaviour through covid, post-Brexit conditions, and an ongoing cost of living crisis.

Pandemic Shifts

We’ll start with the pandemic. A time which now feels like a distant memory changed both student’s and employee’s expectations of HE institutions. The post-covid recovery saw massive shifts back to in-person experiences, ranging from open days to alumni events. This all at the expense of online programs which had seen large boons just a year before. As marketers scramble to revert back, there remains a tension between the two approaches. Our new reality exists somewhere in the middle. There seems to be a preference toward in-person, with assumptions that organisers continue to cater to distanced learners. In short, plan for events with hybrid elements.

It’s also important to remember that the UK was one of the first places in the world to lift restrictions. While UK institutions have largely recovered, Asian markets continue to reel from the spread of the virus. This could be beneficial to UK institutions looking to recruit around the globe.

Economic Struggles

Though several years since implementation, Brexit continues to impact recruitment strategies. Foreign policy changes have resulted in higher entry costs for European students, while compounding visa and immigration difficulties. This pain point is sure to persist, causing many universities and colleges to turn their attention to other nations for foreign recruitment.

Inextricably linked to Brexit, we continue to face an ongoing cost of living crisis. Financial concerns have driven many students to reconsider where they study. Some are choosing to stick close to home while others re-evaluate study in the UK altogether. There might be a bright side to this crisis, as young people may opt for further education instead of entering the workforce. The opposite however, is just as likely, as others may be forced to delay higher ed due to rising costs.

Added Pressures/ Expectations

We know those aren’t the only challenges that education faces. Education marketers continue to be squeezed in all areas, both for time and resources.

Students have grown accustomed to a higher degree of service. There’s larger expectations for flexible communication methods, fast response times, and empathy. Increasingly there is added pressure to be champions for both social justice and the environment. Let’s not even get into the discussion on what is means to be authentic while doing it.

Internally we know HE marketers are being asked to do more with less. To find efficiencies while scaling growth. There’s the desire to be everywhere at once, stretching already thin budgets across the advertising ecosystem. The pressure to maintain presence on traditional media channels while innovating on all the new ones that pop up.  All the while, conversion KPI’s are becoming more strict, with less runway to get students to the point of consideration.

Looking forward, things don’t seem to get much easier. Stricter privacy measures are diminishing the ability to track our progress. Marketers will need to be clever to conceive new methods to measure success, but they’ll only work with the full team on board.

Reasons for Optimism

Despite the obvious struggles, education marketers have many reasons to remain optimistic. Even with the challenges outlined, demand remains higher than ever. This is partly due to the reputation of UK HE institutions, which remain top tier in the world. Consistent demand is also linked to life milestones. College and University remain a rite of passage for many students. It’s as much a means for social activity as it is a quest for better jobs. This social pressure will continue to drive interest in the University experience.

In terms of population, UK demographics also work in favour of the sector. The number of 18 year olds in the UK will continue to increase for the remainder of the decade. The opportunity is to prove to them why higher education will benefit their lives.

Marketers themselves have a lot to remain proud of. They’ve remained extremely resilient through these challenges, overcoming years of poor press, culture wards, repeated strikes and more. Whatever else is thrown at them this year, you can bet they will adapt accordingly.

The Biggest Opportunities for HE Marketing in 2023

We want to leave you with some considerations for the year ahead. After all, new challenges bring new opportunities. Here are a short list of tips we’ve compiled for HE Marketing in 2023:

  • Adapt to new regulatory environments early. Rip off the band-aid and start to adjust your processes. It’s better to get ahead of mandatory changes than be caught scrambling to catch up.
  • Simplify as much as you can. Find synergies within your teams; streamline workflows and stick to one goal at a time. Collaboration is key.
  • Plan for physical events with hybrid elements. Think about how you can solve the needs of both audiences.
  • Directly address student’s concerns in your recruitment strategies. Stress programs that help with financial and housing aid. Also demonstrate your approach to DEI and climate improvement with evidence.

That’s our outlook for HE marketing in 2023! Was there anything that resonated with you? Check back in throughout the year as we continue to share tips to set you up for success.