As a result of decades of research with Higher Education sector stakeholders, we understand the challenges universities face, and the metrics they are measured against.

Whether students or policy makers, education marketeers or Vice Chancellors, we have experience of designing research to support institutions at every stage of the Higher Education lifecycle. Our team of sector experts deliver research outputs that guide government policy, inform institutional strategy and impact faculty decision making.

The Higher Education lifecycle is inextricably linked to providing a highly skilled and economically productive workforce. We provide unrivalled expertise at every stage of the process, embedded in our wider experience and understanding of the learning, employment and skills sectors.

The Higher Education Lifecycle

Student Recruitment

As the financial cost of higher education has risen, understanding the nuances of the factors involved in student decision making has become ever more important in an already competitive market. With students increasingly viewed as consumers or customers, universities need to carefully consider both their portfolio offers and marketing approach, to best appeal to a new and value conscious cohort of applicants. We have a wealth of experience researching learner and consumer decision making across the education, regulatory and wider private sector. We are adept at applying appropriate statistical techniques such as trade-offs and segmentation to better understand consumer choice.


Our experience:

  • Online discussion board and survey with current and prospective students in 30 countries for the University of London to unpick their reasons for deciding to study their International Programmes.
  • Study for a Midlands University amongst prospective students and parents to help them develop their response to the increase in undergraduate tuition fees.
  • Mixed methods evaluation of year 2 of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for DfE. A key component of the evaluation is an exploration of the use and impact of TEF on applicant decision making.
Student Experience

With increased competition throughout the UK sector to recruit and retain students, universities must commit to enhancing the student experience, consumer satisfaction and value for money. This requires a detailed understanding of the way that students think, their expectations and how these can and should be met. IFF are uniquely placed to deliver insight in all of these areas. For example, the cognitive testing of the National Student Survey involved delving into student understanding of the questions, and critically, the reasons for their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various aspects of their experience. We also worked closely with a number of our DLHE clients to develop bespoke questions designed at understanding graduate experience and satisfaction with their course.


Our experience

  • National Student Survey (NSS) Pilot for HEFCE – 26,000 online and telephone interviews with current students informing the development of the 2017 NSS.
  • Large scale cognitive studies for HEFCE testing students’ understanding and interpretation of the NSS core questions, optional banks and the Intentions After Graduation Survey (IAGS).
  • A study for DfE exploring student and applicant views on the relative importance of teaching quality and student outcome factors, for quality of student experience and choice of HE provider.
  • Learning Gain study for HEFCE measuring the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.
Graduate Outcomes

IFF Research has sat at the heart of independent measurement of graduate destinations for the last 20 years, through work with HESA on the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Longitudinal survey as well as a number of UK HEPs on their DLHE surveys. Other destinations work we have carried out has allowed providers and funders to better understand the early career experiences and choices of higher education leavers.


Our experience:

Employer Needs

In an era when more emphasis is being placed on education meeting the skills needs of the economy, and with the UK’s productivity lagging behind its major competitors, identifying and understanding employer skills needs is more important than ever. Our work covers national, regional and local surveys, sector specific studies, projects on specific skills deficiencies (e.g. in management), views on the skills of leavers of HE and other education leavers and qualitative work among employers on skills, recruitment and training.


Our experience:

  • We are best known for managing the UK Employer Skills Survey for DfE, the largest business-to-business survey in the UK, involving interviews with over 87,000 employers assessing their skills challenges and training activity. IFF has been the lead contractor and report author on all four occasions the study has been conducted (in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017). The findings are used both in the design and assessment of national, regional and local skills policy.
Policy Development

The landscape of higher education is constantly evolving but the last few years have seen a period of unparalleled change. From the politically-controversial, tuition-fee regime introduced in 2012 to the passing of the Higher Education And Research Bill, IFF Research has played a key role in better understanding the changes to the structure, regulation and financing of higher education and helping the sector to respond.


Our experience:

  • We are best known for managing the UK Employer Skills Survey for DfE, the largest business-to-business survey in the UK, involving interviews with over 87,000 employers assessing their skills challenges and training activity. IFF has been the lead contractor and report author on all four occasions the study has been conducted (in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017). The findings are used both in the design and assessment of national, regional and local skills policy.
  • Evaluation of year 2 of the Teaching Excellence Framework studies for DfE we explored applicant and student views on the relative importance of teaching quality and student outcome factors.
  • Contribution of Alternative Providers to the HE sector for BIS – This study was designed to measure the market for Alternative Providers of HE. An initial scoping phase talking to key stakeholders in the sector was followed by quantitative telephone interviews and qualitative depth interviews with a range of Alternative Providers to determine student numbers and future plans.
  • Understanding Postgraduate Demand for BIS – This study established a baseline level of demand for postgraduate study against which the impact future changes in the HE funding regime could be measured. The project entailed the collation and analysis of application data from 80 HEIs supplemented by findings from qualitative discussions to contextualise any impact of fee increases on the level of demand for postgraduate study to date.

Publications

Contact us

Contact Elizabeth Shepherd in our Higher Education team for details of our service.

E: elizabeth.shepherd@iffresearch.com
T: 020 7250 3035

Clients

Conferences

IFF will be presenting at the following conferences – Follow the links to join us

The Graduate Employment Conference Europe, Gradcore, 22 November 2018

The Knowledge Partnership, University Market Insight Conference, 27 – 28th November 2018

IFF have presented at the following conferences – Follow the links for details

Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference, 3 – 5 July 2018

Advance HE Surveys Conference, 9 May 2018

IFF’s Higher Education Horizon Scanning Product: 

Follow the link below to find out how we use secondary data in combination with carefully selected primary research methods to fit your objectives, institutional setting and budget.

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