The fundamental question is not what the university wants to offer, but what the lifelong learner requests – only when the two are successfully matched, will a sustainable operation occur.
Based on the analysis of the educational strong points of the university and the opportunities for successful delivery of specific courses and/or programmes for learners (or companies and institutions) in need of further education, decisions to explore the market should be taken.
An Analysis of the Market
An analysis of a market for lifelong learning should therefore answer the following questions for the university:
Do we have courses or programmes that learners outside of our traditional cohort of campus based students need, or do we have the expertise to create such courses or programmes (a value proposition)?
Who are the learners and how are they segmented (customer segments)?
How are we going to reach and deliver our courses to these groups of learners (channels)?
How do we service the learners (customer relationships)?
Which sort of communicative infrastructure should be in place for these non-campus-based learners?
A market analysis should answer:
For most universities, the primary factor determining the success of a programme, is the number of students. If a module or program is not successful, meaning the number of participating students is low, the program or course will be discontinued.
Behind the issue of recruiting sufficient numbers of students, money, of course, plays a decisive role, but the issue is seldom reflected as such. As we will return to later, money is more directly involved in the decisions on educational formats to be chosen for delivery of the module, course or programme, and on resources to invest in pre-production.
Universities in large countries (e.g. Russia, Germany and Turkey) or ones offering courses to large language areas (e.g. Spain and United Kingdom) are operating with student numbers and economical resources that are considerably larger than universities in smaller countries that have to fulfil the same educational needs for lifelong learning in the societies they serve.
Before making the final decisions to develop a module, course or programme it is essential to identify factors that are important for facilitating the success of this course or programme:
Is a similar course being offered by competing institutions - meaning that both partners may recruit so few participants that none of the offers will reach a sufficient number to break-even?
How many lifelong learners have a need for or an interest in the course and are likely to sign up for it?
Is it likely that employers will pay the tuition because the course has a direct relevance for companies; or will it have to be paid out of the learner's own budget because the course is more likely to be part of a personal career planning?
Are there requirements that the student has to fulfil before been accepted on the course/programme - e.g. other courses, former degrees/certificates or previous work experience?
Does the course require specific language skills – e.g. ability to read and study texts in English?
The following questions should be asked:
Market relations covers the whole spectrum of customer segment, value propositions, channels and customers relationships.
It is concerned with the marketing and delivering of value ( value propositions) to its learners- a process that spans pre-course marketing activities, through continuous customer conversations ( dialogue with learners) to customer support (learner support) and indeed everything related to the relationship mechanism within lifelong learning programmes.
Strong human relationships are the key to success. Building trust, allowing for personalisation of learning processes, facilitating networking among course participants etc all add up to a value configuration offered to learners.
The value configuration typically evolves towards its full potential as the lifelong learning programme progresses and as the relationship capital, which can facilitated through customer-centric, collaborative approaches is allowed to unfold.
Indeed, relationship capital- a term that refers to the quality transmitted in customer relationships ( student- teacher relationships,) through interactions over time, becomes the foundation for defining the university's value proposition to its students.
It is important that this relationship is derived and merited by its customers ( students) as an asset.
It is also important that the organisation utilises every customer touchpoint as an opportunity to present itself and its values as part of its unique identity so that it can be distinguised from competitors. This branding can be looked upon as "promises and perceptions that an organization wants its customers to feel about its product and service offerings" Davis, S. M. (2003). Brand asset management.
There is great potential for establishing and maximizing the positive effects of a brand based culture at every customer touchpoint and indeed for driving profitable growth through the brand strategy.
It is significant to point out that the organisation's brand is signalled by every person and every artefact that has the role of presenting the organisation to customers/ students.
EXAMPLES OF IMPLEMENTING MARKET RELATIONS
Context and Inspiration
In an effort to provide context and inspiration to the users of this site, selected examples of university programmes exhibiting excellence or innovation or indeed delivery of strong performance within specific or diversified markets, can be found in examples of implementation, in the popups on the right side of this page.
The popups are based on information provided by the partners and furthermore elaborated upon in the context of business models, particularly with regard to the market relations aspect.
They provide examples of implementing marketing aspects within lifelong learning programmes.
From these popups you are also able to access a synthesis of the individual case studies, that are also accessible via Examples of Implementation.
an example of an organisation that offers value at all customer touchpoints
Lund Commissioned Education Department:
an example of acting as brand ambassador
Open University, OpenLearn:
an example of a large-scale cross-institutional project delivering open educational programmes for work and life
Spanish National University of Distance Education:
an example of capacity building for higher quality education