Marketing Brock University in the 1980's: assessing freshman student feedback in strategic planning approach
Rickers, Donald S.
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Universities have entered a period of rapid change and upheaval due to an external environment beyond their control which includes shifting demographic patterns, accelerating technology, funding shortages, and keener competition for students. Strategic planning, a comprehensive vision which challenges universities to take bold and creative measures to meet the threats and opportunities of the future, is an institutional imperative in the 1980's. This paper examines freshman student feedback in an effort to incorporate this important element into a strategic plan for Brock University, a small, predominantly liberal arts university in St. Catharines, Ontario. The study was designed to provide information on the characteristics of the 1985-86 pool of freshman registrants: their attitudes towards Brock's recruitment measures, their general university priorities, and their influences in regard to university selection (along with other demographical and attitudinal data). A survey involving fixed-alternative questions of a subjective and objective nature was administered in two large freshman classes at Brock in which a broad cross-section of academic programs was anticipated. Computer analysis of the data for the 357 respondents included total raw frequencies and rounded percentages, as well as subgroup cross-tabulation by geographic home area of respondent, academic major, and high school graduating average. The four directional hypotheses put forward were all substantiatied by the survey data, indicating that 1) the university's current recruitment program had been a positive influence during their university search 2) parents were the most influential group in the students' decisions related to university 3) respondents viewed institutional reputation as less of a priority than an enjoyable university lifestyle in a personal learning atmosphere 4) students had a decided preference for co-operative study and internship programs. Strategic planning recommendations included a reduction in the faculty/student ratio through faculty hirings to restore the close rapport between professors and students, increased recruitment presentations in Ontario high schools to enlarge the applicant pool, creation of an Office of Co-operative Study and Internship Programs, institutional emphasis on a "customer orientation", and an extension of research into student demographics and attitudinal data.