Authenticity lacking on business school websites and doubts about social media


Latest GenerationWeb study analyses student use of social and digital media in deciding where to study

Most prospective students use social media to consider where to study, but there is some scepticism on using sites due to recent social media scandals, reveals the latest edition of the GenerationWeb study by CarringtonCrisp in association with EFMD.

In the research, which analyses prospective students’ use of business school websites and social media, just over half (51%) search for information about business schools on social networking sites.

Issues such as data breaches, harvesting of personal information and fake news have led to just over a third (34%) of respondents agreeing that recent scandals about social media sites have made them uncertain about using social media channels. However, opinion is divided with a similar percentage (36%) disagreeing with this view.

The study also reveals some skepticism around content on business school websites. More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents relayed that they are more likely to believe independent reviews from students and graduates than content from a business school itself.

Andrew Crisp, the author of the study comments: “Prospective students are looking for authenticity and differentiation. There is too much content on business school websites and social media channels that looks just like other schools. Students want an honest appraisal of what a school is really like and why they should study there and not somewhere else.”

Of the social media channels, Instagram is the most widely used (87%), ahead of Facebook (80%), followed by WhatsApp (74%), Snapchat (75%), Twitter (52%) and LinkedIn (42%).

The use of video is increasing amongst prospective students. Just over half (53%) watch video on school websites, up from 46% in last year’s study. Half (50%) of the respondents search for business school videos on YouTube and other video sharing platforms, also up from the previous study (39%).

The study asks respondents about the most important information on a business school website. Aside from information on course content*, rankings (67%) are considered the most important followed by accommodation/housing (51%), fees (50%), living costs (50%), career services (50%), open days (46%) and accreditation (44%).

A growing number of prospective students, although they remain interested in course content, are less concerned with the campus experience. Almost four out of ten respondents (38%) relayed that they would consider online learning as an alternative to campus-based study.

“As with any other consumer purchase, prospective students are looking for honest and independent views on business school programmes. While a website containing relevant content is important, more so are the recommendations of current students and alumni, particularly via social media and independent online platforms. These play such a critical part in influencing students on ultimately where to study,” concludes Andrew Crisp.


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Notes to editors
Now in its eleventh year, the GenerationWeb study has reviewed more than 200 business school websites in total, gathering data on how students use the internet in general, specific school websites as well as digital tools and social media when making study decisions.

Data for the study was collected in May and June 2019. The largest group of respondents were undergraduates (66%) with a further 27% of the sample still at school not yet having started their degree studies. In total, 603 students completed the survey and were drawn from 49 nationalities. Most of the sample was female (59%).

*Where respondents were presented with 13 pieces of potential information on business school websites, asking which they viewed as the most important, “course information” was not included, as previous studies had suggested this was always the most important content when visiting a school website.

CarringtonCrisp is a specialist consulting firm, using data and creative approaches to drive analysis, insight, and solutions across higher education. The company was established in 2003 and has worked with more than 130 institutions in over 30 countries.

The EFMD management development network includes over 900 institutional members from academia, business, public service, and consultancy across 87 countries worldwide. EFMD offers a range of services, including conferences and seminars around the world, surveys and the dissemination of knowledge, quality improvement and accreditation via EQUIS, EPAS, EOCCS and CLIP, as well as the EDAF mentoring programme and BSIS impact assessment system.