In an effort to prevent student dropouts, address the cost-of-living crisis and see how institutions are practising what they preach, Stephanie Mullins and Alexandre Lopez from specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education take a look at the financial support available within business education.
Students must be able to afford the likes of rent, study materials, and food. In the UK, the National Union of Students found earlier this year that a third of students were living on just £50 per month, after bills and rent.
When things are this difficult, it is unsurprising that potential students are seeking out options for financial support. Using four case studies, we demonstrate the importance of providing financial aid, both from the perspective of ‘doing the right thing’ but also through the lens of positive brand building for institutions.
The practical implications
When there is more funding, education is made more accessible – and we hear about this all time. But functionally, this means that the brightest and most intelligent are able to attend university, regardless of their financial situation, and not just those with the deepest pockets.
By removing this barrier, student cohorts are less homogenous. There is strength in diversity as people from different backgrounds are able to attend higher education institutions. The general experience of students is improved through experiences and interaction between peers from a multitude of backgrounds. Networking is an important part of higher education, especially in business education.
For example, Imperial College Business School provides diversity scholarships that range from providing support based on ethnic background to geographic origin and gender. Their scholarships help to install a cohort with a fantastic range of experiences and the potential for worldwide networks.
Equally, providing students with financial aid will help them to focus on their studies as they should not need to worry extensively about being able to afford to live. Studying at university successfully includes classes, reading, networking, and perhaps participating in student societies and unions, which are all important to making the most out of a higher education experience. When financial assistance is provided, students are better set up to succeed and take advantage of all an institution has to offer.
For their MBA, ESMT Berlin provides a raft of different scholarships, amongst scholarships for other programmes too. Not only would this incentivise the best talent to enter their school, but also provide some financial relief that will then allow them to reinvest into their studies and networking with less concern for their own finances.
How does this translate for PR?
Walking the talk. This means implementing initiatives that support statements made, like speaking out in support of diversity and opportunity as well as providing scholarships in recognition of breaking down the barriers that would prevent someone from successfully taking up said opportunities.
This supports the building of attractive brand reputations and how an institution is perceived by the media, students, other universities, etc.
We’ve also got to remember that effective PR strategies are long-term. The benefits of providing financial aid go far beyond the payment itself, from sharing the stories of the scholarship’s importance to sharing the success stories in the media of those that benefit from it. And when employers see that individuals are recipients of a scholarship, it can translate into career opportunities and success. Scholarships themselves can and do become prestigious enough to earn industry recognition.
For example, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) recently launched the GMAT Talent and Opportunity Scholarship for potential business school applicants, which covers materials and entry test costs with test preparation and professional admissions consulting.
Scholarships like this are fantastic PR opportunities to highlight a brand, company or institution and its ethos without it coming across as an advert.
Overall, scholarships and financial assistance have arguably never been more needed. But with that, perhaps they have also never been so impactful; the support can so often be life-changing. The brand recognition and PR opportunities that come as a consequence are just more advantages to their existence.
See more articles by Stephanie Mullins.