The Evolution of Marketing in Higher Education

“Marketing” had once been a term that could only be spoken in the most hushed tones in academia.  However, in the past 40 years, the number of U.S. colleges and universities has grown from 2,300 to more than 4,000, including branch campuses (Rhodes). Not only have  institutions of higher education (IHEs) experienced intense competition from traditional, non-profit institutions but there has also been new competition from for-profit institutions. And these for-profit institutions, such as the University of Phoenix, have adopted aggressive marketing strategies.

The lack of a marketing communication focus tends to be the result of how IHEs have evolved over time. As institutions have grown their enrollment and program offerings, they have also become increasingly fragmented internally. Typically this has resulted in functions becoming compartmentalized and departments operating without any knowledge of the other parts of the institution. Individuals within IHEs tend to view themselves as part of a distinct department competing for limited organizational resources rather than as part of a comprehensive system working toward common objectives.

Advances in technologies have been the impetus for dynamic change in higher education marketing.  Lipman Hearne recently partnered with CASE to conduct a survey of marketing practices in higher education.  This (free!) report reveals that “Marketing is being increasingly regarded as a “mission critical” process in higher education, worthy of significant investment.” One of the most interesting findings of the research is that even though 96% of colleges and universities are continuing to use print publications, the marketing mix is morphing to include greater emphasis on interactivity and social networking.

I would welcome your thoughts about the findings of this report … please share comments below!


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