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Universities in the UK are facing huge changes to their environment, in terms of supply of funding from the government and level of demand for their courses. Their plight is further affected by the increase in tuition fees and the proposed changes in visa regulations for international students. Bradford University School of Management was established in 1963 and is one of the oldest full service business schools in the UK (Bradford.ac.uk). The School of Management offers MBA on a Full-time, Part-time and Distance learning basis. This marketing plan is concentrated on the Full-time MBA programme which is consistently ranked in the top 25 in Europe and top 100 globally by the Financial Times (FT).
The objective of this marketing plan is to give a well-researched snapshot of Bradford University School of Management's Full-time MBA programme and current global MBA market. This plan does the internal/ external audit and SWOT analysis for the Bradford Full-time MBA programme and is meant to provide a guideline to create new marketing objectives, strategies, marketing mix, budget and implementation.
The main goal of this plan is to provide strategies to compete in the rapidly growing MBA market by
Developing the programme and service to meet the requirements of the students and markets.
Developing the Bradford MBA programme in new geographical areas.
Promoting its selling points to wider market.
Forming strategic alliances with organisations in UK and Europe for recruitment and project opportunities
Setting up campuses in India where there is a high demand for the programme and MBA graduates.
Targeting UK, European and American students to enrol in the programme to have the right international mix in the class
The university has a Corporate Strategy Plan framed every 5 years. The new plan introduced for 2009-2014 explains where they are going and how they propose to get there. Behind these plans, the university has detailed Corporate Objectives that they monitor via Key Performance Indicators through its Balanced Scorecard (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010).
The core mission of the university is "Making Knowledge Work". The School of Management focuses its energy "to enhance the understanding and practice of business and management worldwide
as a leading European full-service business School, with an international staff and student community
engaged in internationally excellent learning, teaching and research in close collaboration with businesses and other users
whilst fostering a commitment to corporate social responsibility" (brad.ac.uk, 2010)
(Source: Bradford.ac.uk, 2010)
External Marketing Audit
Higher Education Funding Council for England cuts funding to universities by half a billion pounds (bbc.co.uk, 2010). This cut will cause 'irreversible damage' to higher education as it is expected to hit teaching, research and decrease the number of places offered. As a consequence, the revenues generated by the School of Management will be affected.
The recent changes in the visa regulations set by UK Border Agency on Tier 1 and Tier 4 is another major threat to the universities in the UK. The number of foreign students coming to the UK for higher education has been increasing exponentially in recent years. With the new stringent regulations on Tier 4 visa, the number of students coming to the UK is expected to reduce. Adding to the woes of the student, recent change which closes the issuance of Tier 1-General visa to new applicants after April 2011 will cause a mass reduction in the foreign students coming to the UK to pursue higher education. The Full-time MBA cohort of 2010/11 has only 1 British citizen which clearly means that the main customers of the programme are from outside the UK. These regulations will have a major impact on the enrolment unless the School of Management plans some strategies to attract local students.
The job market in the UK for MBA graduates post recession is still dire. The number of graduates heading back to their home country to look for opportunities is significantly more than the number of graduates staying back to seek employment in the UK. This continuing trend has created awareness in the students intending to study in the UK. Many students are considering pursuing MBA in Asian business schools as there are good post employment opportunities in Asia than the UK, and the tuition fees are far more attractive than the UK business schools. This again is a major threat to the Bradford University School of Management.
Many Asian countries like India, China and Singapore are increasing the number of business schools as the demand for MBA graduates is in the rise in these developing economies. This increase in the number of top quality business schools, employment opportunities, and lenient visa regulations will attract more foreign students than business school in the UK. This is again a major threat to Bradford MBA as India, China and many Asia countries are keen on attracting world class business schools to setup campuses in their countries.
The location, cost, and infrastructure provided by the Bradford University School of Management can be used as a key to attract students. UK being one of the prominent financial capitals in the world and the recent demand by the banks for MBA graduates (Quacquarelli, N. 2010), consistent ranking in the top by FT for 'Value for Money' and the 'New Built' providing a world class learning environment can be used as a marketing tool to target local and international students. In addition to this, UK MBA has a huge market for Asian students. They prefer UK MBA over Asian business schools to gain international exposure. The Bradford MBA has 80% of the students from Asia in 2010/11 cohort. Also, the 1 year MBA programme offered in the UK unlike most business schools across the globe is a very important factor considered by the students while selecting their MBA schools.
The increase in the tuition fees has increased the debt of the students. A recent report states that many students work part-time during their programme to earn money to pay their tuition fee debts. This affects the student's interest in securing higher grades and engaging in other networking/ extra-curricular activities. This has a detrimental effect on the education and 'university experience' of the students. Another major factor which affects the Full-time Bradford MBA in recent years is the increase in demand for Part-time and Distance Learning programmes.
Frozen research funding and 15% reduction in the buildings budget are bound to affect UK universities' research, training and infrastructure (bbc.co.uk, 2010). This will impact the spending for their libraries, buildings, research programmes and other events that the universities conduct every year. The 'New Built' at Bradford University School of Management is well equipped with all the latest technologies. It has a Harvard-style MBA suite and new social and learning spaces (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010). With this new building, Bradford University School of Management can have a leading edge over other business schools who will find it difficult to allocate funds for building developments.
[Effect: Threat and Opportunity]
Globally there are estimated to be over 7000 business schools. Research by GMAC suggests that the number of postgraduate business programmes grew by almost 4000 in the decade to 2007. The demand for MBA is still strong, according to the Association of Business Schools (ABS), the body representing the UK's 118 Business Schools, which accounts for around 30,000 Full-time MBA students in the UK annually (guardian.co.uk, 2010). Top ranked business schools in the world have seen applications soar during and post recession.
As markets in Asia, Middle-East and Latin America continue to expand, the demand for MBA graduates has increased. This has led to the development of many business schools in these areas unlike a decade ago, where the elite business schools were concentrated in the UK and US. Many top business schools in the UK and Europe have identified these opportunities and setup campuses in many regions of Asia and the Middle East.
According to QS TopMBA.com, in the upcoming years there will be a soaring demand for MBA graduate. This trend will continue across major sectors that hire MBA graduates. They also expect a 55% increase in demand in the consulting sector, 47% increase in technology, 38% in general industry and 54% in financial services sector. A survey by Quacquarelli Symonds, an education and study abroad company, reports a 32% increase in the demand of MBA graduates in Asia-Pacific this year, compared with 9% in North America and 3% in Europe (nytimes.com, 2010).
The increase in the demand for MBA graduates in emerging countries in Asia and the increase in the number of business schools in Asia will have a significant impact in the Business Schools in the UK. Bradford MBA will also be impacted as the majority of the cohort in recent years has been from Asian countries.
Who are the customers? - A recent article in The Chicago Tribune described a continuing debate in business schools over whether their enrolees should be regarded as "customers" rather than as traditional students (nytimes.com, 2010). Students of business schools have two main reasons before joining a business school. The first is to receive world class education. The second is to get placed in challenging and well compensated positions after graduation.
What do they seek? - There are many factors that need to be examined to understand why and how students choose different schools, what their thoughts are about the schools' reputation, teaching staff and facilities, and mainly what motivates them to pursue a full-time MBA.
The figure below shows the research done by CarringtonCrisp in partnership with ABS and EFMD on motivations of students to study full-time MBA.
(Source: Association of Business Schools, 2009)
Career remains the most important motivation for studying MBA closely followed by earning potential. High-profile faculty play a little part in attracting students to business schools. For about one-third of the students, course content, fees and careers options are more important than reputation.
The figure below shows the views of career services among full-time MBAs based on the research done by CarringtonCrisp in partnership with ABS and EFMD
(Source: Association of Business Schools, 2009)
Porters Five Forces:
The Porters five forces model can be used to scan the microenvironment by analysing the following:
Power of buyers
Power of suppliers
Power of new entrants and
Threat from substitutes
(Source: whatmakesagoodleader.com, 2009)
Internal Marketing Audit
The University of Bradford recorded a surplus of f £2M (budgeted surplus was £726K). This was largely due to the increase in the student intake. This £2M is consistent with the University's historic annual performance over the last 8 to 9 years. The operating income was increased by 4.1% due to the launch of the 'Unique Leisure' complex which saw a significant increase in its membership and consequently an increase in income. (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010)
The university seems to have a clear outlook for the next five years. They also have plans to invest in the academic and research facilities to further improve its reputation and attract students (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010).
Strategic Issues Analysis:
Current Marketing Objectives:
The University continues to invest in its academic activities and infrastructure in order to remain attractive to students. It created a new Academic Development Unit that aims to improve student performance and enhance student support. It also invested in ten new research centres which are expected to provide wider market opportunities. The new MBA suite, resource centre and the atrium at the School of Management is a world class student learning centre with Harvard style learning suite. It has also finalised agreement with its partners for the Sustainable Student Village which is designed to offer a new type of community living for students. (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010)
Competitive Advantages: [Effect: Strength]
The University has successfully increased its Student Number Control Limit (SNCL) for UK and EU full-time students (bradford.ac.uk, 2010). The other business schools will face the limit imposed by HEFCE which will restrict the number of enrolments.
The Bradford MBA has maintained a high level of professional body accreditation from both AMBA and EQUIS which makes it stand apart from its competitors.
It has launched a major fund raising initiative to secure funding for scholarships and academic projects (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010).
Ranked consistently in top 10 by Financial Times for "Value for Money".
Perceptual Maps: Price (X) and Quality (Y)
Price is a weighted figure based on the 'value for money' of the course, the tuition fees and the outcome out of the programme.
Quality is a weighted figure based on the accreditation, number of available electives, exchange programme opportunities and the class profile.
Marketing Mix Effectiveness:
The marketing audit is summarised with the SWOT analysis as shown below:
Reputed, Dual Accredited MBA and ranked consistently in the top by FT.
'Cost Effective' programme - 'Value for Money'
Highly talented and experienced professors, world class campus and location of the school
Fundraising plans to increase scholarships and academic projects and also have a clear investment outlook to improve education - attract students
Demand for MBA education is strong
Economic Recovery - Leading to post graduate employment opportunities
Bradford MBA brand
Poor marketing strategy to UK students
No internet marketing tools to market Bradford MBA - E.g.: Facebook, FT and Gmail advertisements
Lack of employers recruiting from campus
No international experience in the class - 88% Asians, 5% Nigerians, 3% Middle-East
Funding cuts by government - impact the education quality
Declining job opportunities in the UK and the demand for MBA graduates in Asia.
Strict visa regulations for entry to study and work
Competition from new entrants in Asia - comparatively less tuition fees and high job opportunities
Growing demand for Distance Learning and Part-time programmes
It can be observed from the SWOT analysis that the core strengths of Bradford MBA are the cost of the programme, the accreditation, reputation and the university's investment outlook to improve education and research facilities, which will in turn attract students. The threats and weakness are clearly linked. The lack of opportunities post MBA, poor class composition and poor marketing strategy to attract local students has led to the development of threats to the programme. The Bradford University School of Management should find a way to convert these threats into opportunities and weakness into strengths sooner than later to maintain its reputation and profits.
Bradford MBA is an established brand, extending the same to target a wider customer base; developing strategic alliances and identifying emerging market areas to focus on new developments are the needs of the hour.
This is depicted diagrammatically in the Ansoff matrix below:
Target UK, EU and American Students
Opening Campuses in Emerging Market Countries
Strategic Alliances with organisation in UK and Europe.
Target wider customer base: The class profile has majority of students from India (85%) which makes it like studying in India. There is no proper mix of nationalities. Therefore, targeting local and European students and having a proportionate mix would increase the overall student experience.
Opening campuses in emerging countries like India and China: There is an increase in demand for MBA graduates in Asia when compared to the demand in UK. There is a sudden and significant rise in the number of business schools in Asia and many reputed institutions are starting campuses in these countries. Opening campuses in India or China to attract students will be an effective strategy.
Strategic alliances with European organisations: Survey says that the main motivation for students to pursue MBA is to end up in challenging and well positioned jobs. Forming strategic alliances with organisations to recruit students from the MBA class will satisfy the students which will in turn promote Bradford MBA by word of mouth.
Apart from targeting Asian students, Bradford University School of Management should focus on local, EU and American students for two main reasons. First, there is big threat from the growing number of business schools in Asia where there is huge demand in the market for MBA graduates. Second, the students are not happy with the 'overall student experience' as Indians form the majority of the class. Absence of a multi-national class makes them feel like studying in India. The school should focus on enrolling more number of local and EU students to survive in the market. Besides this, the school should identify countries in Asia to setup up campuses where the demand for graduate programmes keeps increasing.
Bradford MBA has a good reputation in the Asian market. Setting up campuses in India or China will attract more students as there are very few reputed foreign university campuses in these regions. Setting up campuses in India will be a key strategy as the competition will be less and students tend to get attracted by foreign universities and faculties.
The double accreditation for Bradford MBA will have a competitive advantage over other business schools in the Indian market. Its consistent ranking in FT global rankings will make it the second ranked business school in India. The cost effective programme which has a tuition fees approximately equal to top five business schools in India will make it attractive to students.
Marketing Mix Decisions
It is recommended that the Bradford University School of Management focus on areas around the Full-time MBA programme to meet the market requirements and satisfy the students by implementing the following strategies:
Develop strategic alliances with organisations in UK and Europe to provide employment opportunities for meritorious students. Programmes similar to "Morrisons Corporate Degree Programme" should be implemented (Bradford.ac.uk, 2010).
A survey on the programme suggests there should be effective use of alumni for recruitment and project opportunities.
More care should be shown in choosing the appropriate class mix as the student's are currently not satisfied with the international exposure.
The price of the programme is ideal. It is considered as 'cost effective' programme by the students.
There should be a minimal fee charged for applications. This will increase the image of the school and is also likely to generate more revenues.
To achieve its strategic thrust, the school should focus its promotional events on the following markets:
Promote the brand value to organisation and tie ups with them will attract students
Develop marketing tools to target local, European and American students.
Enter into emerging market countries with developed marketing tools and discounts to attract customers.
The school should setup campuses in India where the demand for both the programme and MBA graduates are relatively high than the UK market.
With the new bill proposed by the Indian Government, it would be easy to set up a campus in India and the low cost of living will attract students.
Assuming the total marketing budget as 100%, the proposed split is shown in the chart below:
25% is spent on the product enhancement through alliances with organisations. 35% for the promotion of MBA programme to local and European students and also to market the new campus in India. 35% is allocated for set up cost for new campus in India and 5% for the price.
Implementation and Control
The school should start implementing this plan as early as possible to convert the threats and weaknesses to opportunities and strengths respectively. This should be done by two teams and will be completed in 1 to 3 years.
Product Development Team should develop strategic alliances with organisations through well established alumni. This partnerships should be designed in such a way that organisations are allowed to design up to two elective modules and offer jobs to 5 successful graduates who have excelled in these electives. This strategy is followed by many reputed business schools and they consider it to be a key strategy to attract students and build the image of the school in the business world. This is also similar the "Morrisions Corporate Degree Programme" launched in partnership with Bradford University School of Management for Business and Management undergraduates.
Market Development Team should invest on latest marketing tools like internet (Facebook, Gmail, FT, LinkedIn, etc) to attract UK and EU students. This can be done by promoting the brand value to organisations, corporate marketing at business zones to attract employer sponsored students, and also by providing discounts to these students. The team should also set up campus in India where there is a huge demand for the programme and graduates. A significant amount should be spent on media advertising as it is considered as the best way to reach Indian population. The new bill proposed by the Indian government will also make it easier for Bradford School of Management to set up new campus.
Control measures can be taken at periodic intervals through student surveys and feedbacks before and after implementing the strategies.
Even though I consider finance as my forte, I have often heard my friends and colleagues suggest that I would be a right fit in the Marketing industry. Given that I have never done anything in the marketing sector, the prospect of working on this coursework thrilled me. I considered this as an opportunity to discover the potential I had in marketing. I wanted to make the most out of it by choosing a challenging product.
The main reason behind choosing Bradford Full-time MBA programme was due to the disappointment I felt when I joined the course, which stemmed from the fact that the class didn't have a good mix of students from different nationalities. Also, subsequent decrease in rankings since 2008, rapid rise in the number of business schools in Asia, lack of graduate employment opportunities and the local political scenarios contributed towards making a decision to develop a marketing plan for the programme. My career as a financial business analyst has lent this plan an analyst perspective instead of marketing manager's one.
Reading journals and articles, and informal surveys with the past, current and prospective students on the Bradford MBA programme helped me analyse the current market and understand the expectations of the students. This not only aided me in the audits but was also instrumental in shaping the marketing strategies.
Since, I am a person who constantly thrives on challenges, the thrill I experienced while working on this assignment has opened my eye towards considering marketing as a career option. Thanks to lectures and tutorials which was very helpful in relating theories to practice. Working on this assignment has been a very gratifying experience.