The Market Oriented University

The Market Oriented University

Transforming Higher Education

John A. Davis and Mark A. Farrell

The next decade will be transformative for the higher education sector. Government funding is decreasing. Through their marketing activities universities have created the ‘student consumer.’ The student consumer is prepared to shop around, compare prices and value, and once purchased expects a return on their investment. Disruptive innovations are challenging traditional forms of learning and in many cases are viewed as better alternatives to traditional learning in the classroom. Competition from private educational providers is increasing. Their cost base is lower, and their customer focus is superior. In short, universities around the world are facing a perfect storm. While experts don’t expect the higher education sector to collapse under these challenges, they do believe that for some institutions the future looks bleak. If universities are to avoid closures or mergers, they will need to adopt a market-oriented approach.

Chapter 9: Differentiating, positioning and branding the university

John A. Davis and Mark A. Farrell

Subjects: business and management, management education, management and universities, marketing, education, management and universities, management education


Three distinct market forces, student diversity, cost pressure, and technological change are converging, compelling many universities to not just closely re-examine their role in society, but to animate how they make strategic investment decisions in support of the institution’s efforts to develop a distinctive position in the global higher education market place. Achieving a distinctive position can help the institution develop a recognized, truly valuable brand value proposition that defines the university’s role and contribution to society and the stakeholders it serves. We examine the role of differentiation for universities through the lens of a brand strategy framework comprised of four dimensions: Destiny, Distinction, Culture, Experiences. We also discuss the benefits to developing a university ‘brand touchpoints’ map and a customer journey map, with the student as customer as the focal point, but an obvious application to other stakeholders is apparent as well, providing a highly useful set of tools planners can use to fine tune their respective institution’s strategic plans and positions over time.

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