Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Applicant Days - Successful Subject Sessions

With winter setting in and the Christmas break not far away, it’s time to think ahead to next year’s Applicant Day cycle starting in January.  From now onwards and throughout the spring term, applicants will be receiving offers from their prospective institutions.  Their task is now to hone their five or so application choices and decide where they really see themselves studying and living for the next three or more years. And that’s where Applicant Days are designed to help.

By the time Applicant Days come around, the priority for most applicants is figuring out the distinctions between courses at different universities.  It’s likely that they’ll be visiting elsewhere too, and directly comparing institutions and courses.  Our cycle of Applicant Days running between January and the start of May provides opportunities for applicants to visit us throughout the period that sees their offers come in and decisions having to be made. 
The subject sessions at Applicant Days are the perfect opportunity for departments to engage with their applicants at this stage in the application cycle and really show off the many benefits of our courses.  It’s then our job in MRA to build the rest of the days around these sessions and help reinforce the value of the whole ‘Chester Experience’ – the result hopefully being to convert attendees into budding 2013 entrants. 
I’ve been having a look at some of the survey feedback about what prospective students most enjoyed about last year’s Applicant Days, plus things they thought could be improved upon.  A summary of this data will be forwarded to Faculty Deans over the next couple of months.
In the meantime, here are a few illustrative quotes from last year’s survey and our top tips for planning successful subject sessions.

Friendly information from the experts

Given that applicants are taking the time to visit us to find out more about their course, it’s important that they’re able to meet with relevant subject staff where possible.  Being able to meet and ask questions of the people who will actually be teaching them leaves visitors better informed and able to envisage what their time with the Department will be like.  Previous visitors have also been impressed with the friendliness of staff and an altogether personable approach that really helps Chester stand out from the crowd: 
"I liked the relaxed, friendly atmosphere” 
“Very friendly and welcoming Professor, plenty of opportunity for questions” 
“I was pleased to meet a member of staff I will be working with in the future” 
“A specific course teacher would have been helpful” 
“It would have been nice to have talked to someone who actually ran the course”

Help from current students

Of course, the real experts in student life at Chester are our students!  We know from visitor feedback there’s nothing better than getting information straight from the horse’s mouth.  Involving current students in subject sessions -  perhaps through Q&As or tours of the department -  is a great way of contributing to the day’s personal touch , not to mention a great resource and help to staff.
  “There were students from first and second year speaking which helped to get a feel for the university from a student’s point of view”

Timely and relevant information

A number of those who decide to visit us on an Applicant Day will have already visited us at one of our recent Open Days.  It’s worth being mindful of this when planning what you will be delivering on Applicant Days as it shouldn’t simply be a case of repeating the same old formula.   
“It was disappointing that it was exactly the same information and presentation that I had received on the Open Day I attended”
 Notwithstanding this, remember that our visitors are further along the applicant ‘journey’ than before they applied: they will now be seeking specific information about modules, field trips, assessment methods and so on, and comparing this to their other offers.  They are also likely to be in a better position to absorb positive messages about graduate employability at this stage; another key area for differentiation between institutions.

Keeping it informative, engaging and professional

… Not too much of a tall order, right?!  First and foremost, applicants want to come away equipped with in-depth, relevant information about what their chosen course will entail.  But as the recent parent’s blog post on our campaign site highlights, visits to events like Applicant Days are all about getting a ‘feel’ for the place and people at a university.  We’ve had some great feedback from applicants who have been really inspired by meeting enthusiastic staff and students, seeing departmental facilities and engaging in activities as part of the subject sessions:  
“Great tutor.  Interaction.  Ability to ask questions.  Good to see equipment”  
 “I enjoyed it when we did a small workshop as it was fun and not too pressured”   
“I enjoyed seeing the facilities and previous students’ work”   
“We enjoyed the way [the tutor] sold both the course and the University.  He was informative, interesting and held our attention throughout the session” 
This is all worth thinking about when planning the format and delivery of your sessions.  In terms of timing, do make sure to use the full time allocated for the subject sessions (this is your one chance to really sell the course – seize it!).  Equally, please make every effort not to overrun as delays tend to impact on the rest of an applicants’ day, which was noted by some in last year’s survey feedback.
Of course, there are always going to be latecomers, and occasions where the best planned schedules go awry!  Due to the variety of our programmes and the nature of Applicant Days as being designed around applicant choice, it’s inevitably difficult making ‘one size fit all’.  The best feedback from staff and students has been where sessions have been adaptable and  tailored to fit the occasion – often, this is when we are able to demonstrate Chester’s personal touch at its best:
“It was small and informal ... it made it very easy for me to ask any questions and get the most out of my day” 
Finally, think about the overall impression given by the materials you use on the day and update them as required.  If you’d like any advice on printed materials or would prefer to use a PowerPoint template that integrates with other materials used by MRA, please let us know.
Myself and Mark Hoddell will be in contact with relevant colleagues about the forthcoming Applicant Days – but if you do have any questions or queries in the meantime please get in touch:
Thanks all,


Monday, 3 December 2012

Read all about it

If you’ve read one of my previous blogs, you’ll probably be aware that one of the consistent themes is often based around the premise of creating a stronger bond with the prospect and developing some sort of sense of loyalty to the brand.  It’s fundamental to any business that wants to be successful or even survive.  And it’s why so many businesses now work so hard to encourage you to leave your personal details with them.  They want to know exactly who you are, and what your buying habits are, so they can begin to interact with you in a way that is relevant to you.  Customers are always the lifeblood of any organisation and universities are no different.

Whilst our immediate goal may not be repeat business, which is often the main objective of building brand loyalty, it is necessary to keep our prospects and applicants engaged and interested throughout the various stages of their decision making process.


In my previous blog, I discussed the aftermath of the Open Day, putting it into context of where it falls in a prospect’s decision making process.  With applications now starting to flow into the admissions office, the process of making offers has begun.  Hence, it is now that the arduous task begins of trying to convert these applications into enrolments.

Extra, Extra… 

In terms of how you can begin to engage with your applicants, a department or course e-newsletter is a good starting point.  Universities are in a very fortunate position that makes it relatively easy to engage with our prospects.  By virtue of an applicant’s application, not only do we know that they are considering the University as one of their five choices, but we also have a wealth of information on exactly who they are and what they are interested in.  This immediately gives us the ability to create very powerful personalised and targeted marketing communications.

Monday, 26 November 2012

On the campaign trail with the University of You!

Having just sat down to write a post about MRA’s campaign for 2013 undergraduate recruitment, I started to experience a strange feeling of déjà vu. Then I realised that it was only in April of this year that I wrote a piece about the campaign for 2012 undergraduate recruitment. Rereading this, it struck me that my intention had been to write something very similar regarding the work for 2013 and that, quite frankly, seems a bit pointless. As I'm here now, I'll write a post about how some of our recent work fits into the bigger picture. But first, if you didn't see my post from April have a quick look now…

So, you’ll have seen that I wrote about the ‘University of You’ campaign and described a series of activities and marketing communications that we put together to generate applications for 2012 recruitment. I described how we planned the campaign, how we constructed it and how we executed it. I finished by saying how successful it had been. And it was very successful in a particularly tricky year, with the University of Chester being one of the few universities in the North West to recruit to target.

On target in 2012

And it’s perhaps this success that has led us to do something very similar to kick-start recruitment for 2013. While the materials have changed and the presentation of our marketing communications has evolved, the core messages of the campaign stay broadly the same. And as I wrote then, that’s because the messages are true – Chester’s unique offering creates unique graduates in a crowded and competitive graduate market place. It’s a strong message and one that really seems to resonate with prospective students.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Open Day aftermath - the difference between success and failure

With the Open Day season complete, we can all collectively breathe a huge sigh of relief and reflect positively on what worked well and what didn’t work so well.  All in all, I think all the University’s Open Days went very well with some record numbers in attendance, and I would like to congratulate Anna Long and Mark Hoddell for doing a sterling job in co-ordinating these events.  Months of blood, sweat and tears go into ensuring these events run without a hiccup.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but they work flaming hard at making them a success.

Step in the right direction

In an earlier blog, I talked about the difference an Open Day can make to prospective students, with it often a determining factor on whether or not to apply.  With the encouraging numbers in attendance and the fact that so many departments put so much effort into making the Open Day experience a positive one, it would be an easy mistake to make to think that the task of marketing your course is now done.  Far from it unfortunately, but a successful Open Day is obviously a step in the right direction.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Inspire a generation

Question, can you remember how old you were when you first thought about going to university? 18? 25? or 50? Maybe even aged 11!

Back in the day

Thinking fondly back to when I was 11 years old I recall reading ‘Smash Hits’ magazine, covering my bedroom walls with freebie posters of East 17 (for my sins) and copying the very latest dance routines on MTV to perform at the next school disco.

Dreams of going to university during my final year at primary school were, to say the least not on my radar. But that was 1994; my equivalent in 2012 is much more clued up, ambitious and focussed on what they want from the future.

Savy School Kids

Hard to believe I know, but on the 3rd and 4th July this year approximately 200 Cheshire Year 6 primary school children demonstrated this shift in university awareness.
They attended an ‘Introduction to University’ event on our main campus, and before taking part in a jam packed schedule of teambuilding and aspirational workshops the students were asked how they currently felt about going to university.

The result?

Well out of the 200 little tots 86% said they would like to go to University. 86% who would have thought that?

Ok so you may think that’s just one group. Well, a few weeks later a further 30 Merseyside youngsters attended a campus event and of these budding scholars 85% confirmed they also had aspirations to go to university in the future.

Pre-empting your thoughts ‘that’s great Laura but why are you telling me this?’
I think it’s important to get an ‘A’ in our homework and embrace the prospect that whilst these little ones are learning about the past and present, they are also thinking about the future and in particular, their future.

The Lynx effect

Long gone are my secondary school experiences of future choices which took place in a broom cupboard style office opposite the ‘Lynx Africa’ drenched boys toilets (and if you were wondering no I didn’t pursue a suggested career in Travel and Tourism or make it as a famous actress).

Rather today, many Outreach, Widening Participation and academic colleagues just like us are working with thousands of youngsters providing quality information, advice and guidance on progressing to Higher Education, shouting ‘If you want to go to university, we will show you how to get there!’

Back to the Future

So over the next academic year when you see hundreds of our mini enthusiasts teamed in caps and gowns proudly strolling around campus to their mock graduation, not only do they look super cute but will be well informed about the journey to university and encouraged to achieve their hopes and dreams, whatever they may be.

The figures above illustrate that it’s never too early for students to think about their future so let’s support our schools and their students, work together and Olympics style ‘Inspire a generation!’

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Give your marketing a sporting chance

With the summer now fully in motion, sport is truly on everyone’s minds and if it’s not, you will be forced in some way to back “Our Greatest Team” in the Olympics. From television to chocolate, clothing to fast food, the Olympics have created a massive marketing bubble and you just try and escape it!

That is the influence of marketing, like it or lump it its everywhere! I think I am more aware of it this year than any other. It probably started way before I realised, but the first time it really hit home was in the build up to the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

A right Royal re-brand

First up was a rebrand with a bit of a twist, when Unilever changed its classic yellow lid and label on its iconic Marmite pots, replacing it with a red top and a union jack logo. This rebranding machine went a step further with a name change to Ma’amite, in quirky homage to the Queen. 

Hot on their heels with their very own ‘royal rebrand’ was bread maker Kingsmill, whom aptly re-branded their bread Queensmill. This promotion, however only ran for two weeks, as they probably took the view that any longer would risk confusion, and dilution of the brand.

Love it or hate it (see what I did there) these are great examples of the creativity, interest and anticipation that, amongst other things marketing can create.

Since the Jubilee, marketing teams across the world having using sport as a key leverage for their product or service. With Euro 2012 warming things up we saw the typical Nike Vs. Adidas campaigns, added to this clothing retailer H&M got a piece of the action by using David Beckham to flog some underpants.

Marketing Aces

From one sporting tournament to another, the 2012 Wimbledon Championship was packed to the rafters with British expectation and interest. It’s no revelation that marketing plays a major part of Wimbledon, however what was most impressive this year was with the likes of HSBC, Robinsons and Evian and their integration of social, digital, print (packaging) and television mediums in well-constructed and engaging marketing campaigns. 

From ball suppliers, to being the official ice-cream or wine of a tournament, you can’t help but realise that sport is big business. In some quarters they say it has gone too far, and it’s more about making money out of the sport rather than supporting or promoting it. Just look at the brilliance of Bradley Wiggins at the weekend, who’s winners jersey was plastered with so much sponsorship it could have been mistaken for another colour rather than yellow (maybe ‘Sky’ blue?).

Overstepping the mark

Recently there is an opinion that marketing has over stepped the mark, using a more aggressive ways to engage with consumers. Rightly or wrongly the 2012 Olympics Games has come in for similar criticism, with Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan asking what message does sponsorship deals with the likes of McDonalds send across

When attending the Chester leg of the Olympic Torch Relay, I couldn’t help but be hit by the sheer marketing force sponsors Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. Shouting over speakers and handing out flags, did give it a great carnival atmosphere, but was it too much?

Bold or Brilliant 

That said there have been some marketing campaigns associated with the 2012 Olympics, which I have to admit have really hit the mark.  One of the most interesting and possibly most bizarre campaigns is British Airways ‘Home Advantage’ - which actively tells us “Don’t Fly”. Tongue and cheek or not, it is certainly a brave marketing decision.

This campaign centred around a great television advert of a BA plane driving around the streets of London, whilst also being supported by a heavy online and social media presence.

See a plane go down your street?

The BA 'Home Advantage' campaign website allows you to enter your postcode to see the plane taxi down your street, how cool is that? 


What can we learn?

With over 100 years of Olympic Games marketing, I am sure that we can all learn a lot from their marketing strategies and well executed campaigns. No, not jumping on the latest band waggon but:

  • Being not afraid to be daring sometimes
  • Integration of your campaigns
  • Being creative at all touch points
  • Not underestimating the power of social media

Now there go, there are no excuses now. We can all achieve gold in our marketing.

Too cheesy? I think that is enough.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Outreach, simply reaching-out? (Part 2)

Welcome back!

 Following on from my last blog post on Outreach at the University of Chester
 it struck me that it is okay me telling you about all the great and the good in which Outreach has been setup to deliver, but what does this mean to the students we work with? The school pupil or college student, what is the real difference for them?

Our team are geared up to change perceptions, raise aspirations and ultimately change lifes. Sounds a little dramatic, maybe even slightly hollywood, but really it is true. Hey, don't take my word for it, ask joe! 

But who is Joe I hear you say (and how can I read you mind)? 

Well more on my telepathy skills in a latter blog, but firstly to Joe...

To explain Outreach, let’s meet Joe

Say hello to 'Joe'
Joe is in Year 6 at a primary school, within a 'low socio-economic area'. This is an area classification of an area, which looks at an individuals economic and social position in relation to others, using income, education, and occupation as a means of measurement. His parent’s never went to university, and he is the oldest of his siblings. He achieves very good grades, and hopes to become an astronaut when he’s older.

Now Joe, would be classed as coming from a ‘widening participation’ background (WP for short). There may be barriers to him progressing through the education process to higher education, such as his parents being concerned about ‘debt’, or even a perception that university is only for 'posh' people. Sadly, this is still a perception that some people have about University, as well as further education in general.

What does this activity look like?

What universities are being asked to do, which previously was the responsibility of organisations such as Aimhigher, is to work with students like Joe, to make sure we breakdown some of these barriers.
It's obviously easier said than done, but it often includes:
  • Getting students to have an awareness of what university is
  • Providing them with an understanding of the different types of institution there are
  • Taking students on visits to University campuses
  • Getting current students to go out and talk to them about their experiences
Primarily, it is for them to see that the world is open to them as much as possible. From personal experience, some of the events we have run for primary school kids have been the most enjoyable days at work I’ve ever had. Their ability to continually question their surroundings, as well as an insatiable appetite for knowledge, is something I’m sure we wish we all still had!

WP Activiy (Purple) hand-in-hand with SCL Activity (Turquise)

Back to Joe…

As he progresses to his local secondary school, he begins to go on more trips to different Universities, where he’ll have taster lectures in subjects he may never have studied before. He may even have people from universities coming to speak to his class about making his choices at GCSE, as well as at A-Level.

Throughout this, Joe is developing his understanding that there is more than just one University, there are a number all specialising in different subject areas. His school is also mindful how parents perceptions of university, and therefore a number of weekend visits are arranged for parents to see what the opportunities are at these institutions.

When Joe gets to Year 11, he still wants to be an astronaut, so begins to ask the people at school what A-Levels he should choose. They recommend a variety of options and one of their local university’s actually offer a degree in Astrophysics, so the teacher liaises with them in regards to their entry requirements when it comes to A-Levels, and what specific subjects they require. During this year the school has also invited a number of local universities to attend their parents evening, including a talk on student finance which enables students, and their parents, to get a much better understanding of it’s all repaid, and what support is on offer.

Joe progresses through to his local Sixth Form College and begins to achieve successful grades in all of his subjects. Throughout Year 12 there are activities being arranged with universities and Joe attends a local UCAS fair at the end of the year. Here he finds out there are a range of different universities offering Astrophysics. He puts his name down to be sent a prospectus, and his soon invited to attend a range of Open Days, where he finds his perfect University, where he then applies through the UCAS process, and gets his place.

Meet 'Joe Bloggs'

Now, Joe is obviously a figment of my imagination, but he perfectly sums up the balance of widening participation and recruitment.
In Joe’s particular case, widening participation allowed him to make the decision of what he wanted to achieve. Once he progressed to sixth form, and attended HE fairs, he became part of the recruitment cycle (feel free to read Adams blog for a better explanation of this).
Throughout his younger years, the activity Joe was engaged with was focussed on breaking down barriers, in particularly concerns over finance, decisions at 16, and of course his parents views.

There are infinite amount of variables which will impact on this entire process (Has Joe got good enough grades? Does he need a degree to achieve his potential?) but hopefully Joe’s journey will shed a little light on what one student’s journey could look like, and where we fit into it.

And finally...

Personally, I like to see widening participation, as well as outreach, as the first leg in a very long relay race. We may make initial contact with many students at different ages, but at certain points, they become a possible applicant to HE, and hopefully, we get a student who decides University is the route for them (this is where Marketing takeover). In a lot of cases, the activity undertaken through our WP work has led to students applying to our university. Alternatively, there may also be students who make the decision that University isn’t for them, but as long as it’s an informed decision, without any misunderstanding on fees or costs, (or ‘posh-ness’), then that will always be part of ensuring that every individual can see it as a possible option.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What a difference a day makes

No, this isn’t a blog about the popular song as sung by Dinah Washington, but rather a blog about our forthcoming Open Days in October.   In a service led industry where our product is intangible in nature and, to a great extent, consumed at the same time as it is produced, Open Days have always been an important marketing tool for showcasing what we can offer prospective students.  However, it could be argued that the recent rise in tuition fees means that the role of Open Days is now more important than ever, with prospective students scrutinising every aspect of this investment closer than ever before.  A number of universities have already reported Open Day attendances increasing as a result of this.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Olympic Games Logo

Living in the North West of England, and traveling around Britain, I’ve been seeing the logo of the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games more and more around the UK, on TV, in the press and all the related advertising as the date draws closer.

As a graphic designer I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the design trends in Olympic logos have evolved over the years. Noticeably, the logos seem to have changed from a monochromatic trend to a more multicolor approach in recent years.

Logo design seems to have been streamlined to simpler and cleaner shapes. This article features every logo from the summer games from London – Summer Olympic Games 1948 to London – Summer Olympic Games 2012.

London – Summer Olympic Games 1948 to London – Summer Olympic Games 2012

Which is your favorite logo and what do you think of the logo of the upcoming London games?

Thank you reading, 


Monday, 18 June 2012

Fusion: Looking outside the world of HE

Recently, I was asked to write a book review for Euro RSCG People's Education Marketing Magazine. It's a publication that's well read by HE marketing professionals and this was an interesting opportunity that I wanted to investigate. 

I had been reading a fascinating marketing book and when I suggested it as the topic of the review, the publishers were happy with the choice. They agreed that it's useful to look outside HE when considering marketing planning and so I was set the task of writing 400 words on the book Fusion: The New Way of Marketing by David Taylor and David Miles. It's surprising how little you can say in 400 words, but I gave it a go and the resulting review was published in the magazine last month.

I've reproduced it here for you to take a look at. The book is a pretty interesting read and, while I wouldn't recommend it as a pool-side page turner, it's worth a look if you are interested in where we can take marketing given the remarkable opportunities that present themselves to us today and in the future...

Fusion: The New Way of Marketing

David Taylor & David Miles
Ecademy Press
ISBN: 978-1-907722-35-6

‘Fusion: The New Way of Marketing’ is a book that practices what it preaches. This is a book and e-book download that enjoys 100% five star reviews on Amazon and has its own website, Facebook page and twitter profile. Its aim, we are told, is to ‘demystify the internet’ and show us how to harness the power of new technologies to help us fulfil our marketing objectives.

An excellent read
Usefully, ‘Fusion’ isn’t about higher education. By stepping away from our everyday concerns and considering the reach and scope of the modern, digital world, we are able to take the time to do some of our most creative thinking. And this book will get you thinking. From the beginning, it sets out the idea that we now have a completely new and democratised way of accessing and sharing information. This hasn’t just changed the way we communicate with one another as individuals, it has completely changed marketing. Understanding how to connect the two is the key, and this gives us an insight into the book’s core message: the world has changed and unless we embrace this new world bravely, our marketing efforts could fall by the wayside.

We are told that the key is to get your website to the heart of your marketing activity and, by carefully assessing some marketing basics, to get marketing to the heart of your website. By getting your website right and developing a strong online marketing strategy around it, you will benefit enormously from social media, pay per click advertising,
                                                            SEO, analytics and interactive media.

The article in print
Of course, we all know that we should be using online technologies and social media but unless we do so in a well thought out and integrated way then there is no point. And this is the other core message of the book:  get the basics right.  Having an out of date marketing strategy that doesn’t appreciate the enormity of the opportunities or that deals with emerging new media in a piecemeal fashion is a recipe for disaster. If you are going to do it, understand it and do it right (and keep re-educating yourself). 

The true value of ‘Fusion’ is that it contextualises online and digital technologies in a traditional marketing sense. For the ‘non-techie’ marketer this is especially useful. And the reminder to first get back to basics is refreshing – each chapter’s suggested action plan, web and video links encourage us to ask ourselves the key questions that underpin a true marketing strategy. But perhaps most pertinently of all, given the times we live in, ‘Fusion’ asks us to re-think what we do (and why we do it) and focus on making our work more efficient by ‘using our brain instead of our bank account’.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, 25 May 2012

All the fun of the HE Fair

Spring is a particularly busy time for the Marketing & Recruitment Team.  Alongside the planning and delivery of on-site recruitment events (Applicant Days and summer Open Day), we are also busy representing the University at HE fairs and conventions across the UK. 

Primarily organised by UCAS, these events are a great opportunity for us to literally set out our stall at schools, colleges and universities across the country and grab the attention of eager students all making that first step in the university decision making process.  The events tend to be regional, attracting excursions from schools and colleges in the surrounding area.
Shai and Adam at Manchester UCAS Fair -
setting up those graphics is no mean feat!

Some students come well prepared with questions about the University or their preferred course of study - others less so (“What’s the difference between Chester and Chichester?” is a question our marketing reps have been asked on more than one occasion!) - but equally well placed to find out more about us and whether we are the university for them. 

Annabelle at a local HE fair organised by Sir John Dean's Sixth Form College in Northwich

From Birmingham to Bournemouth, Liverpool to Lincoln, HE Fairs are a great way for us to engage with our target audience in a tangible way.  Crucially, they are also an opportunity to capture that all-important data with which we can contact prospective students throughout the enquiry and application process - the first ‘call to action’ being to come to our summer Open Day!

Occasionally we get asked by event organisers if we’d like to provide subject specific talks which contribute to a wider programme for students on the day – if this is something your department would be interested in, I’d be keen to hear from you. 


Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator - Chester

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Open Day - A BIG Thankyou!

We are now only a day or so away from the Open Day. It has been a huge task to complete all of the necessary work required, both from a marketing perspective as well an academic one, but yet again we have risen to the challenge superbly.

The Open Day guide looks great, so well done to Anna Long for co-ordinating all of the content, and to me (Stuart Grant!) for the design, artwork and for arranging the print. There was a huge influx of briefs to us, from banner stands and wrap-around displays, to course leaflets, posters and flyers...and also a lot of new and updated web content too.

Not forgetting

A BIG thank you to all of the academic staff who supplied their written briefs in time and to our design and web teams, admirably led by Marc Kneebone (who also designed lots of the printed material) and Neil Martin on web.

We have many heroes in proof reading, editing and printing, but it's been a fantastic team effort in general. The event itself on Saturday will see many of our team doing their bit to provide potential students with a great experience of the University.

All the best for the BIG day!


Monday, 21 May 2012

Outreach, simply reaching-out? (Part 1)

How do we define Outreach? Can we define it or is it simply 'reaching out'? 

Now I'm not much of a wordsmith, but I've always looked to the Oxford English Dictionary as first port of call for any of my referencing needs (those of you lucky enough to read my dissertation will certainly agree!).


They define Outreach (as a verb), as 'To hand out, or over. To present, give' while another definition sees it as 'To exceed or go beyond bounds; to stray'. I really like the term 'stray' as I think it best defines what we do, and why we do it. Whether it is the boundaries of access to University, or the very nature of communicating with organisations outisde of our own, I like to think we're always looking to 'spread the word', or 'stray', across a few barriers.

As I have a tendency of going into great detail (!), I've decided to take the first Outreach blog in two parts. Be sure to look out for Part 2 in the coming days where we'll look at what Outreach actually looks like to a possible student.

Now how do I start to explain the changes in the Outreach Office over the past two years? It’s a tricky task, but one I’m willing to have a go at. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride through government policy, aspirational plans, and one persons journey through the whole process!


At Chester our Outreach Office comprises of seven of us in all, with schools and college’s liaison activity and our department’s widening participation activity, combining into one unit over two years ago. This meant that all communication from our department with schools and colleges would be co-ordinated through the work of Outreach, as well as working towards being aware of the communication being made between the wider University and these institutions.

Wordle: The Browne Report

Some of these changes were made before the Browne report and before the Coalition Government’s announcements of changes to the funding system for those starting higher education in 2012. This meant we were very well placed to add three members of staff at the beginning of this year, to meet the needs of a quickly changing HE climate in this country.
Through all the media coverage of what’s been happening in higher education over the past few months, there have been repeating themes, terms, and questions, being thrown about by the media and the sector.

  • How do we ‘widen participation?’
  • What ‘outreach’ activity are Universities involved in?
  • The students as a 'consumer'
  • The overall issue of Social Mobility

Hopefully through our updates you may be able to understand how we’re working to solve some of these. Now put simply, there are two distinct areas which Outreach covers, and explains the different types of activity we're involved in;

"Widening Participation & Recruitment"

There are age groups, and students, who may interact with both areas throughout their school or college experience, and it's important we're aware of their requirements. As pupils become students, and students become consumers, the Outreach process is involved in every step of their journey.

End of Part One...

Although relatively brief, I'm sure you'll agree that the scope of Outreach is rather large across the entire University, and society beyond. We haven't yet got to 'Joe' and his educational journey, but as an introduction to the topic of Outreach, I hope you've found it insightful.

Thank you reading, and be sure to tune in next time.