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WE HAVE HEARD A LOT ABOUT THE QAA PROCESS IN THE LAST FEW YEARS

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									WE HAVE HEARD A LOT ABOUT THE QAA PROCESS IN THE LAST FEW YEARS,
INCLUDING VIA THE PAGES OF AGENDA MAGAZINE. THIS ARTICLE ADDS TO
THAT BY PRESENTING A CASE STUDY FOCUSSING ON HOW TO CREATE MASS
STUDENT PARTICIPATION IN THE PROCESS THROUGH THE CONSIDERED
APPLICATION OF QUITE STRAIGHTFORWARD MARKETING TECHNIQUES. AS
SUCH IT MAY BE INDICATIVE OF HOW TO EFFECTIVELY AND APPROPRIATELY
USE MARKETING METHODS TO IMPROVE SU MEMBERSHIP PARTICIPATION OR
NONCOMMERCIAL SERVICES. By Dan Entwistle (Media and Communications
Manager) and Janet Bunker (Membership Services Manager), Essex University
Students' Union

THE CHALLENGE
In the Autumn of 2002 the University of Essex announced it was to be one of the first
universities in the country to undertake a new 'light touch' institutional QAA audit. Thus
the Students' Union was faced with the task of eliciting student feedback which would
form the basis of the student submission to the QAA, a new part of the QAA's
Institutional Audit (IA) process.

1. Objectives
In designing the project, basic objectives were set, not just for the QAA Student
Submission but also for the Union. These were:

o The submission was aimed at targeting opinions from all students at the University,
with the intention to be able to analyse the results not only by department, but also by
year groups (undergraduate and postgraduate) disabled students, mature students and
to identify their origin, such as International.

o The submission should only include relevant data that can be used by the QAA and
the Students' Union. Thus the focus of the QAA is on the academic student experience,
not car parking! and the submission should keep to the guidelines provided by the QAA
in Annex D of their Handbook.

o There should be student involvement throughout the student submission process.

Bearing in mind that we had to satisfy the QAA guidelines, we felt that the best way to
put the submission together would be to first ask the students what they felt should be in
it, and secondly how they thought the data should be collected. Two focus groups were
then held to discuss the issues in which about 25 students took part; these groups
contained a mixture of international, home, undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Having held the focus groups it was clear that the best way to collect student views
would be through a questionnaire. This was then used as the main method for collecting
student feedback, along with an e-mail address that was set up for the audit through
which students could leave their comments if they did not wish to fill in the questionnaire
(this was also the e-mail address that completed electronic questionnaires were returned
to). The comments taken from the focus groups were used as information for the final
student submission.

It also became clear that the only way to reach a large number of students in a variety of
social and academic groups, would be to market the audit in such a way that students
became interested and wanted to take part in a serious process of student feedback.
2. The marketing brief
To define our brief we asked ourselves a number of questions:

WHO ARE OUR TARGET AUDIENCE?
What kind of response figures would be desirable/realistic?
What is attractive about the thing being promoted?
What sort of image do we want to portray?
How much and what sort of information do we want to give out?

In the case of the QAA our target audience was all students at the University with
particular attention to those who we have traditionally found it hard to involve. The
response we wanted was 2,000 students filling in feedback questionnaires (currently
that is about 30% of the total student numbers at Essex). The attractive elements of the
audit were that students would feel their opinions counted, that they were being
consulted and that they could have a positive and lasting effect.

In terms of an image it was decided we needed to create a sense of importance and
urgency, to demonstrate that the results carried weight. We also wanted to intrigue
people about what the QAA was and encourage them to find out more.

3. The branding
Branding helps differentiate between one campaign and any other. If c l e v e r l y
branded, a campaign or service can be encapsulated by a slogan or a sentence which
sums up the image and values you are trying to communicate. This is as important in S t
u d e n t s ' Unions as it is in the marketplace in general as universities are full of
posters, leaflets and many other t h i n g s competing to grab people's attention and the
QAA IA is not an immediately exciting issue to brand!

When deciding how best to brand a campaign it is useful to consider the
following:
A strong central image or slogan that can sum up the campaign
How will colour be used?
What kinds of typeface/font will be used?
In the case of the QAA we chose the image of a thumbprint as our logo accompanied by
the slogan "Leave Your Mark". We felt this encapsulated many of the points we were
trying to emphasise with the campaign; ownership, individuality, making a lasting
impression. We also referred to the project as 'the audit' in all publicity material as it was
felt this was less vague and carried an air of importance as though the students were
examining the University for a change.

4. The publicity campaign
We first ran a teaser campaign. This allowed us to create awareness and intrigue around
the brand/logo without actually having to explain what it is. This is a tactic most
commonly used by film studios who want to create awareness of a film without actually
having to put out too much information. This would then be followed by a wider
campaign designed to give out more information.

Unions and universities in general have a lot of publicity and signage and so it pays to
be a bit different with the materials you use. In the case of The Audit we felt the teaser
campaign could do with some large scale posters (A0) to make the thumbprint image
stand out against any other publicity. We also printed some tent cards as they were the
appropriate size and style to go into the Union's bar/catering outlets. We also produced
'audit' pens to hand out to students so they could disseminate the brand further and all
volunteers involved with collecting data wore distinctive red, thumbprinted audit t-shirts.

In order to reach particular groups of students it is often necessary to tailor a campaign
to their tastes. Student bodies are always very diverse and can be broken down in a
number of ways i.e. by age, gender, nationality etc. For the second part of our campaign
we wanted try and make the brand more accessible for groups we felt might not
immediately get involved. The aim was to come up with themes for publicity materials
that might appeal to these groups.

Thus one of the poster types was aimed solely at international students by having the
words "leave your mark" written in 11 different languages, and one was aimed solely at
postgraduate students by it asking the question "are you getting your money's worth?"
(of course this is equally applicable to almost every student nowadays)

This also influenced the types and locations of the publicity used. If we only put posters
in the bars (which are the highest footfall areas) then it is likely that fewer international
students (particularly those who do not use licensed trade areas) would see the
information. As a result we decided to put up materials in academic areas as well as in
Union bar/catering outlets (in menu form) to try and reach more people.

5. Getting the responses
It was decided to have a stall in the main lecture theatre block over a three week period
as most subjects are taught there. The stall worked on a rotation system whereby there
were at least 2 people on it at any time, and during the busy periods between lectures
there were normally 3 to 4 people in the area handing out questionnaires. Sweets,
postcards and pens were given to students as incentives to filling in a questionnaire
(lollipops were a big hit!) but all students were asked to fill in only one questionnaire as
otherwise the statistical results of the project would be affected. The helpers wore their
audit branded t-shirts so that they would be easily recognised as part of the audit team.

As not all students have lectures in the lecture block the questionnaire was also e-mailed
to every student. The e-mail explained to the students what the audit Student
Submission was about and how important it was, that we were aiming to get as many
responses as possible, and that they were anonymous questionnaires so that students
could be as honest as we would like them to be. The issue of anonymity was important,
as it was obvious that if we sent them this via e-mail and they are returning it via e-mail,
then we would know who they were. However it was only their responses on the
questionnaire that were saved, and the e-mail itself was deleted.

Some student helpers were also sent into accommodation and various
restaurants/venues on campus armed with questionnaires and pens at specific times of
the day so that the highest number of students could be targeted in that place at the
time.

6. Outcomes and musings
Of course the most important outcome of any marketing campaign is to judge whether it
worked but with this campaign there were many levels and outcomes that have to be
considered when thinking about success.
We did not achieve our 2000 response target but did receive 1229 returned
questionnaires (18% of total Essex students) which have formed the basis of a detailed
student submission including quantitative data analysed by SPSS and qualitative
comments analysed laboriously by hand! Analysis of the students who returned the
questionnaires showed that we had gathered a representative sample of the University's
students, as defined by department.

The audit campaign was undoubtedly one of the most successful ever run at Essex and
although the University as sceptical in the beginning as to whether we would use the
budget they had given us wisely, they were certainly impressed with the serious style
and profile of the campaign and the wealth of objective data obtained. THE 5 MAIN
BENEFITS OF THE CAMPAIGN 1. UESU ran a serious, relevant and credible campaign
on student feedback & academic experience 2. The University got 'value for money' from
the campaign thanks to the SU 3. It clearly encouraged greater participation from
students 4. EUSU got 'brownie points' for handling sensitive data well showing that we
could be trusted to responsibly and constructively use sensitive information 5. Lots and
lots of unambiguous "hard" data to work on with the University. This gives us a basis for
representative work for the next few years that is valid and legitimate and based on what
our members want. This should allow us in our representational work to focus more on
will more than justify the effort

								
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