Seal of approval for a more elitist AU

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In the future, Aarhus University must be known as a more elite university, whose graduates are guaranteed a good career – preferably in the private sector.

2015.10.15 | Lotte Bilberg

Potential students with a high average mark were the primary target group for the campaign that AU ran during the spring at 76 train stations in larger towns and cities. Business leaders were a secondary target group as employers of the graduates from the university (as were mothers, who are actually very important for young people's choice of study). AU is planning similar campaigns in 2016. Photo: Lars Kruse

Photo: Lars Kruse

How can Aarhus University reclaim lost ground in a situation where Aalborg University (AAU) is gaining ground in Central Jutland, while AU is losing ground in Northern Jutland?

How can AU secure a strong position in the long term in a market characterised by increasingly tough competition between educational institutions due to declining birth rates?

These are questions that the senior management team has had to find answers to while working on finding the right recruitment strategy in both the short and long term. 

Facing a challenge from AAU

Pro-rector for Education Berit Eika is responsible for ensuring that the recruitment strategy is successfully rolled out. She comments on the competition with AAU:

"We can see that Aalborg University has admitted more students from our region, while we had fewer applicants from northern Denmark. Even though we have a strong position and receive lots of applications, this trend will be a challenge in the future because of the declining birth rates in all regions outside of the capital," says Eika.

Around twenty per cent fewer twenty years from now

Declining birth rates in the three Jutland regions are a cause of concern for a university whose students are mainly recruited from Jutland.  

"If we look twenty years into the future, we’re talking about a fall of around twenty per cent, which means that we find ourselves in a tougher competitive situation."

Short and long term

In the short term, the university has decided to take up the challenge with a number of recruitment campaigns.

"We want the most talented on the platform" was the slogan in an AU campaign, which ran up to the quota 1 deadline for applications on 5 July, and which had the aim of making AU visible in the 34 cities and larger towns in Jutland and on Funen.

The most talented

AU’s strategy in the longer term is to become more elitist, as AU wants to be the preferred university among the most talented in its recruitment area.

In this context, the most talented are potential students with a high average mark who are strongly motivated to take an education. These are the students the university really wants to get hold of, because they are the students who are most likely to complete their study programme.

"We know that the qualifying average mark and first-priority applications are the best predictive indicators in relation to completion," says Eika.

Studies show that AU has hold of this group, but to make more inroads here requires more potential students to view a Master's degree from AU as a seal of approval when it comes to landing their dream job, according to a study which AU had carried out in connection with recruitment initiatives.

Academic standards, sense of community and future

Initiatives have been introduced under the general heading of "Academic standards, sense of community and future."

"We’re known for our academic standards and also for our sense of community. However, we need to focus more on making sure that potential students have the perception that a degree from AU is synonymous with a good future career," says Eika.

The various campaigns such as the one in the spring in the 34 major towns and cities are therefore also aimed at business leaders, as they are the people who must employee the graduates.

Theory and practice

"We’re also working to make our graduates more vocational, among other things with our announcement about Master's theses, where we have said that students should have more time to write their Master's thesis," says Eika, and continues:

"In addition, we’re working to ensure that students don’t only find their internship in public sector workplaces, but that they increasingly come to take an internship in private companies, where they have an opportunity to combine theory and practice."

Translated by Peter Lambourne

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