It’s always a dilemma. When you run a science faculty and you are looking to broaden the appeal of your course offerings, how do you achieve that whilst still attracting the academic high fliers and without appearing to dilute the core science subjects? What will the teachers offering sixth formers advice on critical career choices make of your proposition? And ultimately will there be a job waiting for your faculties alumni

What we did 

This project needed a multi stage approach in order to capture the opinions of all the stakeholders involved. In order to gain the views of the potential undergraduates we organised focus groups involving students from sixth form colleges that traditionally provided the university with high calibre science and engineering intake, these took place across the country and provided an interesting insight into what motivated students choice of college and courses. As the Heads of Science at these colleges provide guidance to sixth formers on their choice of university we thought it would be useful to gain their perceptions of the proposed courses along with the opinions of careers advisors who again we anticipated would play a key role in influencing these important decisions.

 Finally we undertook research amongst Blue Chip UK companies who traditionally employed large numbers of Science and Engineering graduates so we could find out what impact undertaking the proposed courses would have on graduates employability, a key factor for todays employment savvy students

What we found  

The students were surprisingly traditional in terms of their course choices with the majority preferring traditional pure science or engineering subjects, expressing concern about employers perceptions of the broader based courses. The choice of university threw up some unlikely factors, with en-suite facilities and low levels of gun crime being high priorities! The Teachers were broadly in favour of anything that got more bums on seats in science subjects although strongly suspecting (as we subsequently found out) the real academics would still favour the pure subjects. The broader based subjects were more “new university” for them rather than something for the “red bricks”. Careers advisers took a more rounded view with some finding the proposition very appealing, especially in terms of allowing post graduates a wider range of career options later on  Graduate recruiters had mixed views with some feeling a degree is a degree, they look deeper at the graduates personal characteristics, feeling their own training is more important the degree is just a starting point. Others felt for Laboratory based work or hard science and engineering the graduates would be less employable than their pure subject peers!

What happened next 

 Its always nice to go back to a client and tell them the research confirms they are doing well or their new venture is likely to be a massive success ….in the real world sometimes it’s a case of sorry but its back to the drawing board. The pilot courses required minimal investment in terms of launching and academic support so probably will go ahead but the research highlighted the areas that needed considerable marketing work to influence both the key influencers and the decision makers themselves

What they said

 "On the basis of this experience I would certainly be happy to work with you again and to recommend Cogent Research to others. I think you did a good job that represented value for money and we are very satisfied clients"