Positioning planning : creating a positioning strategy for the post-graduate international students market for the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg).
Mlambo, Chido Christina.
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University of KwaZulu-Natal is well-known worldwide for educational brilliance, exceptional research output, and African scholarship. It continues to try hard to improve the excellence of its work and student and staff experience through global partnerships. It maintains these partnerships with a couple of universities all over the world. In spite of UKZN’s international reputation, there has not been an actual positioning research done on the postgraduate international students market. UKZN loses potential international postgraduate students every year to other universities and one of the main reasons maybe lack of proper positioning. This then brings us to the objectives of this research which were, to establish who the primary and secondary target markets are in the international student market, to find out the university’s position from an International student’s (going into post-grad) perspective, to assess whether the position of UKZN is aligning with their current marketing strategies, vision and mission and to create a positioning strategy to attract more International Students that the University is looking to pull in. Objectives of this study were achieved by administering questionnaires to international post-graduate students and conducting two focus groups, one consisting of international third/fourth final year students and the other consisting of international masters students. The findings from both research techniques were compared to fulfill the objectives of the investigation. The findings revealed that in geographical terms most international students come from Zimbabwe and Nigeria making those two countries the primary target market. Furthermore, the majority of the respondents did not believe that UKZN is a Premier University of African Scholarship. Among the success factors of a higher education tertiary institution raised were relationships with other universities with research facilities; research recognition; research facilities; quality of results (standards should not be compromised) and safety. The students also raised the fact that international students are not treated equally with local students, for example in terms of scholarships or bursaries, availability of residences and links for job opportunities. The key conclusions drawn from the investigation were that though the UKZN seeks to be positioned as the ‘Premier University of African Scholarship’, in the international student’s minds UKZN does not meet this mission statement. However, the international students did raise the fact that UKZN competes locally with local universities and less on an international scale. Furthermore a positioning statement derived from the findings was created which stated: ‘‘University of KwaZulu-Natal: quality research is our priority!’’ The integrated marketing communications strategy created as the positioning strategy was based on the positioning statement.