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3 Ways to Drive Growth in the Higher Education Sector in 2023

Yango surveyed 50 tertiary education industry professionals to understand what they saw as the biggest challenges to attracting students in 2023.

But we didn’t stop there, we also spoke to current students to unpack what they see as the pros and cons of study in a post pandemic world. We have identified three key ways the sector can utilise marketing to overcome challenges and drive growth in 2023 and beyond.

30% of industry professionals said that scepticism around fees was one of the biggest challenges for the industry.


Key Findings


Tertiary institutions face growing public distrust with increased media scrutiny over ballooning year on year revenues during the height of the pandemic [1]. At the same time, 40,000 workers across the sector lost their jobs.

“Morale among academics is low”; Julie Kimber, a historian and union delegate at Swinburne University, told the Guardian Australia in January 2022, “Universities are nothing like they were when it started. They’ve been corporatising for decades but we’re now reaching a stage where the sector bears little relationship to its purpose” [2]

Students also felt cynical when dealing with their institution–

“Unis are a business for sure.

In lock down they were asking for amenities fees… and I was using my bathroom, not theirs!” [4]


“When you’re talking to the school, you feel like you’re talking to a corporation, but it feels different when you talk to the tutors, because they’re so passionate.” [4]




Here are 3 ways to connect with potential students and key decision makers in 2023.

1. Community Engagement

In November 2022, 37% of tertiary education professionals said that community engagement was a key opportunity for tertiary institutions.



Colleges and universities are inherently linked to their communities, however higher ed marketing tends to focus on the
achievements of the individual, rather than their broader impact on society as a whole.

The 2022 federal election saw Australians vote in support of climate change and constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in one of the biggest political shake ups in decades. This demonstrated a sentiment shift towards the greater good and away from the individual. [5]


The time is right to leverage the powerful message of community, which, when done well, can yield tangible results.

Western Sydney University deployed this approach to huge success in their 2015 rebrand.


Community was at the heart of their “Unlimited” brand campaign which brought to life stories specific to Western Sydney.


The values explored showed great understanding and respect for the hardworking and street-wise culture of Western Sydney.

Deng Adut’s journey as a Sudanese refugee who overcame hardship to study law at WSU and then became a human rights lawyer was the highlight of the campaign.

The campaign demonstrated huge success across the board, with a 27% uplift in Open Day registrations and a 20% increase in social media followers and an overall positive sentiment shift towards WSU. [6]


There are a variety of ways that institutions can engage with their communities, from their alumni and academics, through to research and more.


In order to leverage this powerful message and properly engage, you must first ask… who is my community?

2. Hero the Student Experience

Over 50% of higher education professionals said that fees were the biggest barrier for both international and domestic students. [3]


Fees can be seen as an investment in the future and tertiary education marketing leverages this by focusing on the career as the key aspiration or result.

Students, however, felt that student life was aspirational in itself. They felt uni was one of the most profound turning points in their lives –


“You have so much freedom to study and do what you want compared to high school. School is strict, but uni is fun because you’re treated like an adult.” [4]


There was also a strong sense of camaraderie –


“We’re really social. It’s nice to catch up, get coffee or lunch. We chat about our days and our uni struggles.” [4]


While students showed some concern about the future, they were very much rooted in the present, and enjoying all of the experiences that student life had to offer. There is opportunity to bring these stories and experiences to life through organic social channels as well as paid media in order to forge a strong picture of what life is like for students today.


Who are your students and what do they love about their life at university?

3. Partner with Industry

The job market is evolving more quickly than ever in a hyper digitalised world. With this, students are questioning whether universities can adequately equip them for a rapidly changing work force. [8] In fact, 20% of our survey respondents said that the evolving job market is a big barrier to entry for prospective students. [3]

Students themselves felt that their institutions had an outdated mindset when it came to the workforce –

“Their approach is very traditional… it’s very ‘one direction’ – you finish and you go to a firm” [4]


They also felt that the intitutions didn’t necessarily care about whether they succeeded –

“The university itself isn’t passionate about your career, the tutors are.” [4]


“The uni doesn’t care if I don’t show up for a lecture, they’re still getting my money.” [4]


While traditional industry partnerships are a big part of higher education outreach schemes, there is room to expand to newer industries and start-ups.


What are some industries that your institution excels at and who are some innovators you can partner with?

Want to know more?

Reach out to us and we can help you navigate a new approach to growth in 2023