Cara Skikne

Using data to launch new programmes


Optimising your institution’s programme portfolio is the ultimate way to ensure that your institution is responsive to what students are asking for, as well as what the employment market will require in the near future. Diversifying the range of courses and degrees offered can be a unique value proposition of your institution, and enable it to expand its student audience, based on existing preferences and interests. Launching new programmes also plays a key role in future-proofing the portfolio of the institution by introducing new programmes that match the institution’s brand and respond to changing market needs.

Ask the right questions to optimise your programme portfolio:
Are you risking cannibalising the audiences of any of your existing programmes?
Are you targeting the right students with the right programmes?
Are there small tweaks you can make to match market needs?
Are there courses that should be launched or retired?
Are your course names optimised to capture the attention of the right students?

We spoke to Ralph Buiser, International Market Insight Manager at the University of Bristol:

“Bristol is usually oversubscribed in terms of applications. New programme development has more to do with diversifying the university’s student cohort, and tapping into new markets, and new kinds of students.”  

“New programme development is mostly a bottom-up approach where academic leads develop the business academic cases for scrutiny of both management and academic board before the programme us launched for recruitment and marketing. The process includes key stakeholders in the university to understand
holistically how the university will be able to support and run the programme.”

“In the last few years our programme development work have moved with current global interests to keep our portfolio innovative. In this
time we saw the launch of programmes like the MA in Black Humanities, MSc in Climate Change Science and Policy, MSc Health
Economics and Health Policy Analysis, MSc Medical Statistics and Health Data Science, MSc Global Development and Environment, MSc
Society, Politics and Climate Change, MSc International Business and Strategy: Global Challenges. And so on..”

“We have supported 81 new programme business cases through to submission and through to launch. Over 4 years (including the collaboration with Studyportals over the past 2 years) these new programmes have contributed to around 17 million pounds annually in tuition fee revenue. As a civic institution, however, while innovation in our programme development work has meant greater diversity and revenue, we balance these with academic merits of delivering specific programmes that may not attract large numbers of students but are necessary to have in our world today.”

Optimise your programme portfolio: stages
• Make data-led decisions about which programmes match which student audiences
 • Understand the keywords prospective students are searching for 
Next steps 
• Update or change course details and names to make them more appealing
 • Introduce new programmes responding to global demands and student interest 
 • Implement a systematic process for optimising programme portfolio, supported by student behaviour data

Accelerating international student recruitment

This was originally published in Studyportals’ ‘6 ways to accelerate international student recruitment‘ guide – a collection of approaches supported by mini-case studies from universities across the world.

Find out how universities have amplified their impact by:

  • Choosing focus countries – Insights from The University of Maryland, Baltimore Country
  • Optimising programme portfolios- Insights from The University of Bristol
  • Extending access online- Insights from IU International University of Applied Sciences
  • Building a strong ambassador programme – Insights from The University of York
  • Breaking through the digital noise – Insights from The New School
  • Using data strategically – Insights from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Download the guide here.

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