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Higher education and the power of choice: Large performance gaps create significant exposure for lower-rated universities - EY - Australia

Higher education and the power of choice

Performance gaps will create significant exposure for lower-rated universities

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Proportion of times each driver of student choice was ranked number 1, number 2 or number 3

Proportion of times each driver of student choice was ranked number 1, number 2 or number 3

The above chart shows the drivers that would influence or did influence students' decisions in making a choice to join a university/college. Students were asked to rank each of the drivers from 1 to 10 in order of importance (1 — being 'most important' and 10 being the 'least important'). The chart shows proportion of times each driver was ranked number 1, number 2 or number 3.

Competitive ratings of universities on key drivers of student choice

Competitive ratings of universities on key drivers of student choice

Note : Each block represents a Victorian university and the proportion of times the university was rated as a top 3 Victorian institution, converted to a five point scale.



Survey findings were mostly as expected — students rated ’quality of education’, ’career opportunities’ and ’specific course offered’ as their top three drivers of choice when selecting a tertiary institution.

As part of our study, we conducted a survey of 1,000 current and prospective higher education students. Students were asked to rank the importance of ten drivers of choice — identified through focus groups — in selecting a tertiary institution. Students were also asked to rank competing institutions based on how well they perform against each driver of choice.

Proportion of times each driver
of student choice was ranked
number 1, number 2 or number 3

Proportion of times each driver of student choice was ranked number 1, number 2 or number 3

The findings were mostly as expected — students rated ’quality of education’, ’career opportunities’ and ’specific course offered’ as their top three drivers of choice. When mapping students’ perceptions of competing institutions, however, the results showed large gaps between different institutions.

The findings indicate large gaps in performance ratings between tier 2 and tier 1 universities across all drivers of student choice, as well as large gaps within the set of tier 2 universities. Bridging perception gaps such as these is prohibitively expensive and can take many years.

Competitive ratings of universities
on key drivers of student choice

Competitive ratings of universities on key drivers of student choice

We recommend therefore that universities adopt targeted strategies, for example:

  • Increase quality of education for key programs aligned to a differentiated market position and potentially rationalise non-core programs and courses
  • Create strong industry links in target domains and tie this into the student experience and career pathways
  • Leverage strengths in particular program offerings


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