Brands as Education Providers

  • Could marketers find their most rewarding jobs in the changing education sector? Find out here
  • Get the inside view from our Q&A with Exeter University’s marketing and communications director, here

Brands have been moving into the higher education sector for some time. Department store Harrods now offers an honours degree in sales with Anglia Ruskin University, while restaurant chain McDonald’s offers foundation degrees for its staff in management positions.

It appears that students are open to such options, with 78% believing more lower cost alternatives to full-time university courses should be on offer, according to a YouGov survey conducted with discount service Studentbeans. And 91% think more employers should provide vocational training for school leavers.

Professional services firm KPMG is also stepping up to the plate. In January, the business announced it was to run a school-leavers’ programme in conjunction with Exeter, Durham and Birmingham universities. KPMG has agreed to pay those accepted onto the programme a £20,000 starting salary, as well as all tuition and university accommodation costs, making it an attractive proposition for young people who are interested in entering the sector.

KPMG anticipates the programme, which combines work and study over six years, will gradually become the main source of its trainee intake. Head of audit Oliver Tant explains this aims to increase the diversity of the profession’s intake because it does not require students to fund their own studies. He says that it hopes to help students graduate with both a “first-class qualification and a positive bank balance”.

Other businesses are exploring different routes to help students with their educations. Market research firm YouGov recently announced its Start Up Summer collaboration with London-based University College and Imperial College.

Those accepted onto the free summer school will be grouped into teams and given £2,000 to develop a project that will be considered for a cash prize in a Dragons’ Den-style pitching process. High-profile names such as founder Martha Lane Fox are on board to teach masterclasses.

YouGov business coordinator Hannah Perry says growing awareness of the YouGov brand is a clear aim, along with showing what market research can offer small businesses. She says the company plans to roll out the scheme to more London universities next summer because it is a value-added product for them.

“Our role is not just for funding, it goes a lot further than that,” she says. “We have been able to draw in big names to run masterclasses – the role of the mentors and entrepreneurs involved is core. We also ease the workload of universities by taking on all the planning work. Universities can see this programme as a way to bring what they teach to life.”

De Montfort University external relations director Kerry Law says her higher education provider is also investigating brand partnerships that benefit the university’s profile and reputation. “I believe that these kinds of partnerships are going to become more common,” she predicts. “Collaborations with industries can only be a good thing for the students that take part.”

While initiatives such as KPMG’s offer cost savings to both the university and the student, Law says that money is not be the main priority for De Montfort to consider any brand partnership. She says: “It comes down to classic marketing needs. Looking at adding value and a distinct offer against competitors would be our approach to partnerships.”



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