How the University of Chester uses data to punch above its weight.

The North West of England is a challenging place to do business for higher education. Competing with Liverpool, Manchester, and Bangor is no mean feat.

But that’s the task facing the University of Chester. Despite being one of the oldest providers in the land, predated by only a handful of its peers, Chester finds itself on an extremely competitive stage:

Our size can be our strength, if we remain agile and responsive to market forces. But first we need to understand them, which is where EXACT comes in. 

If we’re looking to develop a new programme, we can find out what our regional competition looks like. And if we find out that we’re outgunned, we know we need to find a USP and build on the current offer. Ultimately, what we find may mean the dissolution of the programme’s development. But that’s infinitely better than launching a course that the market doesn’t need.

Niall Farrall, Market Research Manager, University of Chester

Niall has been using UCAS’ bespoke data service EXACT since 2014, but has quadrupled his usage since the beginning of 2020. Offering the ability to interrogate hundreds of variables, both live and historical, EXACT is the deep-dive opportunity that gives Chester the insight it needs to make informed business decisions:

From course titles to distance from campus, levels of demand to applications vs. acceptances, EXACT is the only service that gives this level of data. Having supported the University of Chester for a number of years, we can help them identify the right questions to ask, which is half the battle when you have so many options. Our relationship and understanding helps us work better together as a team.

Suzanne Campbell, UCAS

Exports from EXACT aren't always about identifying opportunities or underserved markets. It plays just as pivotal a role in providing the opposite: highlighting red herrings or bloated courses. The cost of taking an unsuccessful programme to market can be catastrophic:

EXACT has become an embedded part of our decision-making process. If we bring a new programme to committee, which we do at least once a month, it’s more or less a stipulation that it’s backed up by UCAS data. Without that, it’s unlikely to go through.

We investigated an arts programme a few years ago. Whilst there was a nationally popular school nearby, we did our research and found that it was a buoyant marketplace with a good level of growth, and there was sufficient space for another player. We launched the course, and it has been a big success.

On the other hand, we did our due diligence on a potential joint-honours programme, with languages. Application levels were too low to support multiple language options, we noted that even established universities weren’t filling their courses in that manner. Armed with that knowledge, we were able to submit proposals for single-honours, which was far more likely to recruit and succeed.

Niall Farrall, Market Research Manager, University of Chester

EXACT is trusted by universities of all shapes and sizes, for challenges of a variety of natures. To find out more, and put it to the test for yourself, get in touch.