No, we're not going to be encouraging you all to take to the streets to burn your books in uproar at the Higher Education and Research Bill, butnow that you're here, you probably want to know what we mean by disruptive, right?Here are some interesting discussion points around the Bill and some thoughts behind why we might be asking you if you plan to be disruptive in 2017.

As the HE and Research Bill arrives with a lot of rhetoric: promotion of social mobility, boosting productivity in the economy, and ensuring 'students and taxpayers receive value for money while safeguarding institutional autonomy and academic freedom', all through increased student choice and teaching quality. Sounds good right? Well, there has been much debate about how, and whether, it will deliver to this utopia.


Now past committee stage in the House of Lords, with peers (not surprisingly) proposing a lot of amendments, uncertainty about the outcome remains.

We're not psychic, so who knows what the future holds, but we do have a few initial thoughts around the proposed changes.


Will you embrace change?

Let's explore the proposals to enable new providers to "level the playing field for high quality new entrants", making it easier for new specialist providers to gain university status, award degrees and rival existing institutions. The idea behind this is that by increasing the number of providers, competitiveness increases, and so quality, (of teaching, provision, and portfolio of courses) also has to increase to attract, teach and graduate the best students. Which, in theory at least, leaves your prospective students with more choice across a greater range of providers.

As with most things in life, not everyone is in agreement that this would necessarily be a good thing.

There's plenty of debate that "increasing consumerism" within the sector will place too much focus on sales and marketing, and compromise the quality of teaching and students' interests. Because "new institutions may not have to prove their robustness through building up a track record".And the question everyone's asking - who are these 'high-quality' providers? And how will the quality of their offering be certain for students?


Don't be afraid to be disruptive

Now, we know you've not had it easy. What with undergraduate fee increases, the loss of post-study work visas, and the lifting of HEFCE numbers, through to Brexit and proposed caps on international student visas. But if the government's proposal to allow more providers to attain degree awarding powers goes ahead, competition within the sector is going to be ramped up another degree - and you don't want to be left behind in the battle to stand out above the new kids on the block.

So instead of taking to the streets to be disruptive, use this as the excuse you've been waiting for to revamp your marketing strategy plan.You'll need to be innovativeanddisruptive to stand out. Be clear about who you are: what's unique about your offerings that will resonate with your prospective students? What makes them want to study with you? And challenge expectations of what has been done before.

University rankings and ratings aren't the be all and end all of a student's choice, and enjoyment of university. It's a lot more complex than that. And your institution is more than just numbers and tropes. Students want to find their 'tribe', to see where they would fit in. They need to be able to imagine themselves living and studying with you for the next three years, and they need to know that they will feel proud of their higher education for the rest of their lives.

If you're in need of some inspiration, take a look at how we helped one of our clients, Abertay University, dare to be different.

Murray Simpson, Head of Higher Education at Net Natives said:

"You need to disrupt the current market. Sure, research and teaching excellence, amazing facilities, and great employment prospects are all important to students, but what exactly does it mean? How do you deliver these in your institution?

Don't be afraid to be different; the UK has such a vibrant HE sector precisely because different institutions - and the experiences that students have there - appeal to different people."

The question is, how disruptive will you dare to be to stand out in all the right ways? Speak to our expert team to find out how we're working with our HE clients to disrupt the market.​

Who is Holly Cartlidge?

Holly joined Net Natives in November 2016, after working for 8 years in student recruitment, marketing and market research roles within the higher education sector. At Net Natives, Holly is responsible for using the unprecedented data and resources at our disposal to create and deliver intelligence to the higher education sector.

Article by


Holly Cartlidge

Account Director