Information sources as a marketing tool for higher education institutions
Recruiting students to study at a particular institution is becoming more competitive and challenging.Therefore, institutions must focus on efficient and effective ways of providing students with the necessary information during their institution selection process. Thus, higher education institutions should have knowledge of (a) the major information sources that prospective students consult during their decision making process and (b) the relative influence/usefulness of each information source. Such knowledge will enable higher education institutions to supply information about their institution and service products using the most relevant sources to reach and influence students decision making processes. Due to discrepancies evident in the findings from previous research relating to the usefulness of different sources of information, a need for research on information sources in a South African context was identified. For the purpose of this study, the usefulness of twelve different sources of information considered by students during a typical higher education institution selection process was investigated, and grouped according to each institution. A non-probability convenience sample of 1241 first year Economic and Management Sciences students from six higher education institutions in South Africa was drawn.Some of the findings suggest that the most useful information sources were direct communication by the higher education institution, while mass media related information sources were regarded as the least useful. There were also differences between the six higher education institutions in terms of the usefulness of the twelve information sources for their students.The results of this study suggest that higher education institutions can use this information to make their marketing communication strategies more market-oriented, to reinforce their image and to reach students more effectively through the identified sources of information. Students can also benefit, as marketing communication strategies can be directed at them, making use of the identified sources of information they regard as useful and relevant. This will enable students to make more informed decisions about the higher education institution they wish to attend.