Universities spend pounds 14m on advertising for new students

FRAN ABRAMS

Education Correspondent

Universities and colleges are spending at least pounds 14m a year on advertising - more than twice the amount they spent in 1991 - with the biggest spenders enjoying annual marketing budgets of up to pounds 750,000.

Research by one of the biggest recruitment advertising agencies has revealed that pounds 5m is spent in a single month during the clearing process, the bulk of which comes from just a few universities. Sixteen out of a total of 180 institutions bought half of all the newspaper space sold during last year's clearing exercise.

The latest list of vacancies still available for this year is published in Section Two of today's Independent. Yesterday 260,000 students had accepted university places compared with 244,000 at the same time last year. More than 100,000 were eligible to apply through clearing because they had either missed their grades or failed to attract any offers.

Julie Towers, managing director of the Riley Nottingham agency, which acts for a number of new universities, said some would almost certainly have to cut jobs because of unfilled places. Applications had dropped by as much as 13 per cent this year in some cases.

She estimated that universities' total spending on advertising and marketing was now around pounds 14m per year. Targeting of students was becoming increasingly sophisticated, she said, and in some cases mail-shots were being sent to all 16- to18-year-olds living within range of a particular university. "There is a steady pounds 4m to pounds 5m market out there now in the clearing period and I don't see that changing," she said.

Last year, the Riley group monitored all newspaper advertising by universities and colleges during the clearing period, and this year it is including television and radio as well. Some universities have increased their advertising budgets by up to 50 per cent this year.

The University of Luton was top of its list for newspaper advertising last year, with De Montfort second. De Montfort spent pounds 400,000 this year on television advertising alone.

Craig Mathieson, head of marketing at Luton, said the university felt it got good value for its money. "It is certainly effective but it is part of a total strategy. As we come into the crucial period we hit the market with advertising to try to remind people of all the work we have done during the year."

Ucas vacancies, Section Two

Top ten advertisers

University col cm*

Luton 1982

De Montfort 1677

South Bank 1389

Staffordshire 1317

Bucks Coll. of HE 1009

Manchester Met. 947

Suffolk College 789

Greenwich 745

Bolton Institute 728

Teesside 726

* Number of column centimetres' advertising in national newspapers during clearing in 1994.

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