A report in today’s Guardian has highlighted the enormous value that colleges add to their local community, and how measuring this value through an Economic Impact Study can benefit both the college and community in a number of ways. Looking at three colleges that have had impact studies — Cornwall College, New College Nottingham & Newcastle College — the article shows how the findings of the studies can be used in different ways to bring even more benefit to the college and region.
One of the best and most obvious uses of an impact study is simply raising awareness. Citing the example of Cornwall College, the article describes how the results of a 2012 impact study helped both college staff and the Local Enterprise Partnership to better understand and appreciate the value of the college as an economic driver. According to the college’s development director, Matt Borne, “People in decision-making positions tend to ignore or underestimate the importance of the further education sector … often because they have never been to them and have no idea what they’re about, so our research really opened people’s eyes.”
Invaluable Marketing Tool
But if an impact study raises awareness of a college’s value in the community, then why not take the opportunity to shout about it? That is exactly what New College Nottingham (an EMSI client) have done with their study, which found, amongst other things, that for every £1 spent on education at the college, society receives £3.80.
Quoting Paul Lonsdale, deputy principal of New College Nottingham, the article points to the great benefit the impact study has had on marketing the college, particularly to parents of prospective students: “Parents remain the single biggest influence on choice for young people post-16 … and in most instances, people choose A-levels because they want to go on to university. It’s a very easily understood model, because it’s time-served and everybody knows the route that you go through. With vocational learners it is sometimes a little bit more difficult to see where the progress points are, and parents really need to understand that.” According to Mr Lonsdale, the study is proving to be an invaluable marketing tool in getting the message of the value of vocational learning out there to parents.
Highlighting the benefits of a vocational education to prospective students
In addition to raising awareness in the community and marketing the college to parents, impact studies can also be used to attract prospective students. Looking at Newcastle College (another EMSI client), the Guardian details how they are using their study — which shows how every £1 a learner pays for education at the college will yield them an average £3.40 per hour in higher future wages — to highlight the benefits of vocational education to prospective students. According to Mark Flannery, director of student recruitment and marketing, this is hugely useful in showing prospective learners what they might gain from training at the college: “We are really focused on raising aspiration in local people and developing their skills. There’s a relatively low participation rate at higher levels of skills development in the region, so we wanted to raise that awareness and be able to put some kind of metrics on what that looked like to help learners understand why it was worth doing.”
Another way in which impact studies can be used is perhaps not as obvious — Curriculum planning. Although the studies themselves have nothing as such to do with curriculum planning, they do seem to provide colleges with an impetus to look at ways that they can better align their curriculums to the local and regional community, so that they can have an even greater economic impact in the future. For instance, according to the Guardian piece, since Cornwall College’s study was completed, they have commissioned research on the marine technology sector, with similar studies planned for other industries because — according to Matt Borne — “The more we understand about the sectors and industries that work in our neck of the woods, the better we’ll be at honing the curriculum.” The article also comments on how Newcastle College are using the results of their study as a platform to “build more opportunities for students to develop employability and entrepreneurship skills into the curriculum.”
Economic Impact Studies & Future Benefits
The Guardian piece shows really clearly how Economic Impact Studies are not just a way of measuring the impact of a college — they are also gateways for developments and improvements in areas such as awareness, marketing, attracting prospective students and as an impetus for improved curriculum planning. In other words, these studies can form the basis of an integrated college strategy for economic development.
For further information about our Economic Impact Studies, and how our Analyst, Career Coach and Custom Consulting services can help in areas such as college marketing, attracting prospective students and curriculum planning, please contact Andy Durman (firstname.lastname@example.org)