Marketing post-sixteen colleges : a qualitative and quantitative study of pupils' choice of post sixteen institution
The thesis concentrates on both the supply and the demand sides of the post sixteen education market place. On the supply side, the study examines four key issues - responses to competition; changes in the performance of colleges; the effect of the market on social inequality; and the possibility of bias and manipulation in marketing information. Firstly, on the supply side, the marketing undertaken by one sixth form college is examined alongside quantitative data from college records, (retained over a period of twelve years.) Data are analysed to determine patterns and trends in the profiles and qualifications of students entering the college throughout the period when a niche marketing strategy was emerging. On the demand side, qualitative research data were collected through a series of interviews with twenty five fourteen to sixteen year olds, in a multisite study. Analysis concentrates on the decision making processes and strategies emerging during the period when students selected among post sixteen colleges. The study concludes that firstly, the potential to manipulate information about colleges is increased in a culture of markets and competition. Colleges need to evaluate and gain feedback on the success of promotional communications through marketing research, to monitor the development of the college's reputation, as well as to identify new markets. Secondly, markets have the potential to allocate resources by socioeconomic class. Colleges seeking to reduce inequalities in post sixteen education and training need to ensure that a number of niche markets are identified, appropriate to local need and labour market conditions, to accommodate a range of decision makers in the market. Thirdly, the findings suggest that sixteen year olds are rarely able to give coherent reasons for selecting colleges until they are exposed to the marketing and promotional information provided by colleges. The findings emphasise the importance of effective promotion and public relations, to ensure that positive and accurate marketing information is entering the marketing and choice cycle. Finally, a 'Typology of Decision Makers' is developed to summarise the decision making behaviour of sixteen year olds. The study concludes with a 'Marketing, Choice and Communications Input-Output Model', which highlights the significance of 'psychological defence mechanisms', and reinforcement strategies', in the decision making processes employed by sixteen year olds when selecting among post sixteen colleges.