An in-depth look at the positioning strategy of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, based on scholar and student perceptions.
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This research has been conducted in an attempt to aid the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, in being more market oriented in a market that, until recently, saw little need to market its institutions in the past. Traditionally tertiary educational institutions have relied on their reputation to attract students. Fortunately tertiary institutions have recognised the need for marketing and positioning themselves in the market. Scholars highlighted what they considered to be the most important attributes when choosing a tertiary institution. Using this information, marketers at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg (UNP), can tailor its marketing strategies around these attributes and the scholars that view them as important. The top 5 attributes that the scholars indicated were the most important are as follows: 1. Highly Qualified Lecturers 2. Academic Standards 3. International Recognition 4. Reputation 5. Affordable Fees The scholar's perceptions of institutions based on the most important attributes showed that the University of Cape Town (UCT) is perceived as being the top university - the market leader and can therefore be considered as the benchmark. UNP has been perceived as "average", between institutions such as UCT, Rhodes, Stellenbosch and Wits on one side and Damelin, Varsity College, University of South Africa (UNISA) on the other side. Generally the scholars perceived UNP in a positive light. The University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg is perceived positively with regards to up-to-date facilities (in terms of the laboratory, computers and the library), as well as a good social life, multi-racial mix, sports facilities, approachability of lecturers, security upgrades, and that it is an excellent academic institution. These represent the strengths of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and must be stressed and communicated to potential customers as well as present students who will in turn act as marketers themselves when with friends. The negative perceptions towards the UNP were related to: • Safety on campus at night, • The idea that the social life at UNP is what university is all about, • The lack of personal attention, and • Students being treated as nothing more than a student number to staff. These negative and poor perceptions must be dealt with through effective communication that will highlight the strengths of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. The result of the findings relating to the University's position in the market (based on the important attributes) is reflected in the positioning maps. From these maps it can be seen that the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg does not occupy a distinct position in the market. The mere fact that UNP was rated as average on the most important attributes reflects the poor positioning in the minds of the customers. It is a distinctive nature of positioning that must be sought after. As a result of the poor position the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg holds in the minds of the customer, steps to successful positioning were revisited and recommendations were made to the University. In communicating the position of UNP it must be remembered that the marketing mix needs to be aligned with the intended position of the business. The University's use of the lP's, a vital component of the positioning strategy, was evaluated and recommendations made to the University.