We love to celebrate and champion our team of smart Natives, but it’s certainly welcomed when the outside world does too. And most recently, the Market Research Society recognised our very own Kas Nicholls, Director of Research, as one of the leading lights in research. We’re proud and delighted to announce that Kas has been shortlisted in the ‘Rising Researcher of the Year’ category in the most prestigious national research awards.  

On that note, we caught up with the very deserving Kas to ask her a few questions about her upcoming exciting research projects, and what the award means to her...

So Kas, you've just been shortlisted for the MRS Rising Researcher of the Year Award, congratulations! Tell us a bit about the award.

The award is for up-and-coming researchers who have shown creativity, impact and inventiveness in their work, so it’s great to be a finalist in this category. In my role at Natives, I try to find the best insights for our clients through high quality, innovative research, and the MRS sets the gold standard in this area for best practice, advice and training so to be included on this shortlist is a real honour.

Tell us about some career highlights:

I really enjoy working with clients and delivering not just what they’ve asked for, but what they really need. I’ve worked on some amazing projects at Natives such as the National Clearing Survey, building the algorithm for Edurank (a social media ranking tool for universities) and growing the student research panel. One of my highlights was working with the Canadian government on a project focused on international student recruitment; I’m really proud of my work on that because not only was the client really happy with the end result, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone, so it helped me to grow both professionally and personally.

I’ve also had some amazing opportunities to speak at conferences such as FACE, the Engaging Youth Conference and our very own Think Student Live event (then known as ASDIE). 

Most recently, I’m really excited to grow our Student Hut Opinion Panel, managing a panel of 80,000+ active and engaged students improving clients’ insights on topics that range from mental health to university choices.


What do you think was specific about you and your approach to Research which impressed the MRS?

I think an element of it was down to the opportunities I took for career progression at Natives, but also the range of research projects that we work on, how we collect data via surveys, focus groups, analysing social media, and our varied methodology. We’ve also proactively created our own, innovative in-house products such as Edurank and the National Clearing Survey to fill a gap in the market and respond to needs as they arise. The audience segments I have helped to identify via the National Clearing Survey have become the industry standard to support marketing strategies and plans across the higher education sector, which I’m hugely proud of. 

What's changed in Research in the four years since you started in Research?

I guess everything has shifted more to collecting data online and via mobile and digital tools so not just asking people questions but analysing Google search data and online behaviour to build up a richer story. In theory, it’s now also easier and faster to reach out to people and get their responses. This is made simpler for me with our student panel who offers unparalleled insights into any given subject. However, it does mean, people expect faster results too, and research takes time! So sometimes we need to set expectations that we can’t always turn things around quickly if we want to provide something high quality.

What exciting projects do you have coming up? 

We’re into the fifth year of the National Clearing Survey, so that work is ongoing, and through analysing the data we’ll be revealing the 2020 Clearing Personas which help our clients to understand the different types of Clearing student and how best to communicate with these groups. 

I’m also really excited about some new research I am presenting on diversity in advertising at the Engaging Youth Conference. I think it’s going to provide a big wake-up call to the student marketing sector and I can’t wait to share the results. (Note - Natives’ will be running a webinar and publishing a report before the end of 2019).

Why does Research matter?

We want to make sure that we’re giving our clients the evidence to make the best decisions for their organisation and research is at the heart of this. Research helps our clients to ‘think student’ so that they can best engage with them. As a business, research helps Natives to always be learning and not to make assumptions.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work in Research?

Be curious, find things out and be proactive. Don’t rely on what you think you know - assume you know nothing and check! Research is knowing which questions to ask, which comes from finding out and learning from other people.

If you would like to know how student insight could transform the way you target your student audience, get in touch with Kas and her team today. 

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Article by

Nicola Jones

PR & Events Manager