In keeping with University Canada West’s (UCW’s) mission to develop academic content that addresses real-world problems and issues, UCW marketing professor Brad O’Hara crafted an assignment that was very close to campus this year.
In his MRKT 621 course, the UCW Vice President Academic and Students had his 13 Master of Business Administration students (MBA) develop a proposal for a university marketing plan that would target prospective domestic students.
“MRKT 621 is the required marketing course in UCW’s MBA program,” explains O’Hara. “It gives students an overview of marketing principles that are important in implementing a marketing strategy for any organization.”
O’Hara saw his assignment as a win-win project for the university and students.
First, it would motivate this class of students from nine different countries to hone practical skills needed in today’s highly competitive and ever-changing business world.
Second, it would potentially provide UCW senior administrators with some great brainstorming about how it could court a stronger British Columbia market for its flexible cadre of business-oriented degree, MBA Foundation, Pathway and Access programs.
“Although UCW has poured a lot of energy into extending its reach internationally we have yet to do the same within our immediate BC market,” says O’Hara.
“The idea of having students develop a marketing plan for the University has several benefits: (a) it provides students with an opportunity to apply marketing fundamentals to strategic planning for a real client; (b) it fosters a stronger connection between UCW and these students; (c) it gives students a tangible outcome (a marketing plan) that they can use as part of their portfolio when they seek employment upon graduation and (d) it potentially provides the University with a framework and ideas to extend its reach to the BC market.”
Four students, including Loujeine Kamoun, a Tunisian and Lebanese international first-year MBA student who previously completed a bachelor degree in interior architecture in London, England, formed one of the class project presentation groups.
UCW students, staff and faculty packed a room set aside for the presentations. Kamoun’s group used an elaborate PowerPoint presentation to convey a heavily researched proposal that analyzed B.C.’s prospective student market as five distinct segments. Based on what the group identified as these segments’ educational needs, UCW’s five direct competitors in BC for domestic students (three with downtown campuses) and what makes UCW unique, it proposed several marketing strategies.
“UCW must convince prospective undergrad students and their parents of its unique benefits while shifting assumptions about publicly funded higher education being more academically sound than the offerings at private for-profit institutions,” says Kamoun.
“The University needs to engage in heavy strategic promotion using a combination of traditional communication and new media. For example, billboard advertising on public transit is essential to target graduating high school students and university-transfer-seeking college students trying to get around being waitlisted to take the university courses they want. These segments rely heavily on public transportation to get around.”
“To target more mature prospective students, such as graduate-degree-seeking professionals wanting to pursue higher education while working we suggest UCW advertise in shopping centres that are close to office towers.”
Other marketing strategies suggested included staging open houses for prospective students and their parents, government legislators and the media. sponsoring sporting events and hosting networking activities that involve current students, faculty and business players.
Kamoun’s group also recommended that UCW heavily promotes its new Founder’s Scholarship program. Offered through its partnership with Global University Systems and unique in BC, the program provides 20 full-time undergraduate scholarships, valued at approximately $25,500 each, to prospective domestic students.
Kamoun says O’Hara’s UCW marketing plan assignment provided her with a goldmine of learning that is grounded in the real world.
“I am now more aware of the crucial role that marketing plays and all the different strategies employed by it,” says Kamoun. This project helped her fuse her creative understanding of marketing as an art director with business acumen. “Additionally, the course taught me all the steps involved in designing a marketing plan. I definitely intend to merge both my creative skills and my newly acquired business knowledge in the future.”
UCW is part of the Global University Systems (GUS) international network of higher education institutions headquartered in the Netherlands. With institutions and affiliates across the UK, Canada, Germany and Singapore, the group educates more than 50,000 students from 160 different nationalities.
UCW delivers programs that provide students with the applied and theoretical basis for success in the workplace and future academic endeavors. Established in 2004 by former University of Victoria president David Strong, UCW offers quality education with courses that transfer broadly into the public education system. Courses are offered at UCW’s downtown Vancouver campus and online. For more information visit www.ucanwest.ca.
Carol Thorbes, Communications/Media Relations