Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 15 July 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.
I see that there was a quality control problem with my last column. I use the previous column as a base and forgot to change the heading! My apologies.
This column returns to the theme of rebuilding Armidale’s role as an educational centre in its own right, not just as an extension of UNE.
In my last column on this topic, the importance of Collective Wisdom, I suggested just two things.
First, as far as possible get rid of the word regional. Armidale needs to sell itself as a national/international education centre. The word “regional” is the kiss of death for this aspiration.
Secondly, the need for all of Armidale’s educational institutions to combine to promote the city and to achieve joint educational objectives.
I used the Collective Wisdom project as an example of the way in which Armidale could combine to sell a story. It also illustrated the way in which disunity and competition could destroy promise.
I now want to look briefly at the marketing of Armidale as an educational centre.
We live in a competitive and crowded world.
Within the university sector the Gang of Eight constantly campaign on the theme that big is better, that resources must be concentrated to support those universities that can compete overseas.
Competition is just as fierce in the school sector as schools compete in Australia and internationally.
Even the very concept of a university city has been expropriated by the big. A recent global ranking of university cities commissioned by a taskforce on how the private sector, universities and government could build Melbourne as a university city used two million people as a cut off point!
Sounds dumb, actually, but the results dominate any Google search on “university cities Australia”. Armidale itself failed to make the top sixty search results.
In this competitive and crowded world Armidale fails to stand out as it should. With the right search you can find linkages to Armidale’s educational institutions, but there does not seem to be any coordinated material that I can find that might persuade a person to study in Armidale.
I stand to be corrected here. I only spent about five hours in all on web searches, so I may have missed something.
This brings me to my first two points.
The first is the need to coordinate so that common messages are put across in all advertising and in all on-line material. In doing this, I go back to my point to avoid the word regional.
The second is the need for common material about Armidale that all can use. This must be accessible on-line.
I recognise that there is nothing especially profound in these points. Better Armidale marketing does not require rocket science, simply the capacity to look outside the current box.
Once a common framework has been established, each institution can then develop or modify its material and especially its on-line material to reinforce points.
In looking at this, I want to look first at international students.
I am not sure how many Armidale people realise this, but Armidale and its institutions have a quite long and remarkable record of welcoming overseas students dating back to Colombo Plan days.
We can see this today in some of the student rankings on, for example, the hot courses for Singaporean students’ web site. To quote Narayana from India: If u want to be the best, come to this university and study.
I don’t think that we are at all good in selling this story. A better coordinated effort would assist Armidale educational institutions to attract students, opening new opportunities for all.
I will develop this argument in a later column, looking at what I see as some of common weaknesses at organisation level.