Skip to content

What do students really want to know?


If you went to university, think back to what your key concerns were when selecting an institution, course and accommodation. What were you looking for? Employability, research, reputation? Or perhaps your criteria revolved more around the nightlife?! It probably depends on how many years ago it was and how much you had to pay.

It’s fair to say that today’s students are a bit more discerning when paying up to £9,250 a year for undergraduate tuition. As the landscape of higher education has shifted, the expectations of students have evolved, so it figures they want to end up somewhere that offers them the ultimate all-round university experience.

But it’s not just the rise in study costs which has raised expectations. Technological and social developments have also played their part – students now expect institutions to leverage digital platforms, provide practical and career-focused education, foster inclusivity, offer experiential learning and support their holistic development.

To effectively engage with students, institutions need to start by tuning into their concerns and interests. At the moment, it seems to be proving easier said than done.

In a recent survey, students were asked whether they could easily find the information they were looking for to inform their decision making – almost half (42%) of the respondents said that they couldn’t find what they needed.

So, what are students looking to hear from institutions?

We’ve touched on this already, but let’s look at it in a bit more detail about what content resonates with today’s students:

  1. Support services: Students value universities that prioritise their wellbeing and provide comprehensive support services. This includes access to academic advisors who can guide them in their course selection and career planning. They also appreciate resources for mental health support, counselling services and financial assistance.
  2. Career readiness and job placement: With the increasing emphasis on career outcomes, students want to hear about the university's commitment to their career development. They value information on internships, co-op programs and job placement rates. They also look for partnerships with industry professionals and companies to enhance their job prospects.
  3. Diversity and inclusivity: Students seek universities that foster an inclusive and diverse community. They want to hear about efforts to create an environment that celebrates diversity, promotes equality, and supports underrepresented groups. Students want to be exposed to a wide range of perspectives and experiences.
  4. Experiential learning opportunities: Students want to hear about hands-on and practical learning experiences beyond the lecture theatre. They value universities that offer opportunities for internships, research projects, study abroad programs and community engagement. Such experiences provide valuable skills, networking opportunities and real-world connections, enhancing their overall educational journey.
  5. Accommodation: Gone are the days where student digs were easy to come by. Research by the StuRents accommodation portal revealed a shortfall of 207,000 student beds last year, leading to some universities guaranteeing accommodation to undergrads in order to sign them up. Communicating your accommodation offer is key.
  6. Student involvement and voice: Students want to be actively involved in decision-making processes and have their voices heard. They want to have their say in policies, curricula and campus initiatives. Universities that prioritise student input and engagement create a sense of ownership and belonging.


Of course, individual student preferences may vary, and universities should strive to understand their specific needs and concerns. It’s important to avoid age-related stereotypes and assumptions, for example, as this could disenfranchise mature students. Meanwhile, international students will go looking for different things from domestic applicants – their focus might be on language programs and cultural integration initiatives.

Regular surveys, focus groups and open dialogue can help you gauge student expectations and tailor their communication accordingly. By acknowledging and addressing the specific queries and challenges faced by all student groups, you can establish a more personalised connection and foster trust among applicants.

How to reach students effectively

One of the great things about marketing to students is that there is plenty of third-party research you can use to complement your own findings.

Here are some of the stats that have caught our eye recently which should give you some pause for thought when creating content:

  • Almost 70% of students say university digital experiences must become as good as Amazon, Netflix and Facebook. Half of students say the quality of digital learning determines their university choice.
  • When asked what would help students feel a greater sense of belonging at their university, 46% said “developing closer or more friendships”, 42% said “getting to know other people on my course better,” and 37% said “meeting like-minded people.”
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of students believe there should be ‘mandatory training for all university staff’ on understanding other cultures
Your findings will guide you accordingly when it comes to crafting your value proposition and ensuring you’re saying and showing the right things about your institution. It’s crucial to understand prospective student's preferences, behaviours, viewpoints and communication channels. Here are four quick tips to consider as you then build out your marketing plan:
  • Define your target audience: Clearly identify the specific segment of students you want to reach, considering factors such as age, interests, demographics and educational goals. This will help you tailor your marketing efforts to resonate with their needs and preferences.
  • Utilise digital platforms: Students are highly active on digital platforms, so it's essential to have a strong online presence. Create engaging and informative content on your website, blog and social media channels – but also, be present where your target audience is active and don’t just expect them to seek you out. Consider leveraging paid advertising options on key platforms to increase your reach.
  • Engage through content marketing: Develop high-quality content that is informative, engaging and relevant to students' interests and aspirations. Create blog posts, videos, podcasts and infographics that address their challenges, provide career advice, highlight student success stories and showcase campus life. Optimise your content for search engines to increase visibility.
  • Advertise all year round: The traditional approach of marketing exclusively during the clearing period, when students are making their final decisions about which university or college to attend, is no longer effective. Instead, educational institutions are adopting a year-round marketing strategy that involves a range of tactics.

Where we can help

Here at TAN, we specialise in creating long-form branded content, and then putting in places that your audience are going to see and engage with it. We’ll work with you to understand your university’s value proposition, then adapt it to suit both the target audience and the publisher environment.

Get in touch to see some examples of our work with leading UK and overseas universities.