University Choice in the Era of Full Cost Fees: Pilot Study Phase 1

  • Moorhouse, Jan (CoI)
  • Barry, Cornelius (CoI)
  • Dunnett, Andrew (CoI)
  • Walsh, Caroline (CoI)

Project: Other

Project Details


Would higher fees put off some prospective students from opting to go to university? Students applying for university in 2011 for the academic year 2012/13 would be faced with fees almost treble those charged in the past. The fee change was part of a new approach to HE in which degree courses were conceptualised as goods (or services) for which the HE consumer would pay.
We wondered what impact such a momentous change would have: how would it affect the way prospective students weighed up their university options? We were particularly concerned that higher fees might disproportionately affect students from less well off backgrounds.
Since we were from a marketing background we decided to approach this problem as a question of consumer behaviour and consumer choice. We used a well established market research technique to analyse what attributes of a product (or service) consumers were prepared to pay for. This technique is known as conjoint analysis (CA). By asking consumers a series of questions about which versions of a product they preferred, we can calculates the 'value' to the consumer of specified product attributes.

Using support from MP Europe to gain access to a high quality sample, a survey of 400 prospective university students (aged 17 and 18 in 2011) was c arried out. A focus group study using students from a local 6th Form was used to help design the CA used.

Key findings

Phase one found that course and university reputation were by far the most important attributes for a degree course, with fees ranked as much less important despite the significant rise in fees.

Phase one found significant differences in product preferences of students whose parents had not attended university compared to those students where at least one parent had attended university. There were also some distinctive patterns based on gender.
Effective start/end date15/06/112/07/12


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