The Brief

The University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences asked Shift Learning to help them explore potential interest in two new multidisciplinary degrees. Our integrated approach allowed us to test the brand names and content of both proposed courses with high-achieving potential students whilst gauging their interest in studying on the programmes.

Our approach and methodology

We adopted a two-stage methodology to reach a large cross-section of the Faculty’s target audience:

  • Phase 1: Quantitative eSurvey
    • Targeted eSurvey sent to UCAS applicants and enquirers of social sciences at Russell Group Universities
    • Gathered opinions from 1046 relevant students including 164 who had enquired but not applied – a valuable demographic for the study
  • Phase 2: Online focus groups
    • Six 90-minute focus groups through GoToMeeting conferencing software, with 6-8 participants per group
    • Included 4 online groups for UCAS applicants, split by the two courses as well as 2 further groups for enquirers
    • Secured qualitative feedback on the courses – including opinions on structure, content, brand positioning
    • Both methods allowed us to reach a broad spread of potential applicants across the UK, while focus groups enabled us to share proposed course content directly

Delivering results and value to our client

We gave the University of Sheffield a wealth of findings with practical applications to inform their course development including:

  • Insights into the decision-making processes of applying for social sciences at HE – including reasons why people didn’t apply
  • Learner profiles for both courses, helping them to distinguish and target their brand communications effectively
  • Top-line responses to the two courses from the eSurvey and focus groups
  • Granular exploration of individual modules with recommendations to help develop the course structures in line with the expectations of applicants
  • Full analysis of competing degrees – confirming the USPs of each BA for future marketing campaigns
  • Alternative brand name suggestions to appeal to students
  • Detailed report and condensed face-to-face presentation

University of Sheffield | Evaluating new social science courses

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