Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Expensive TV ad – for a university?

I’ve just finished watching the very, very last Big Brother show for this year (the one-week-on, catching-up-with-ex-housemates documentary), and during the ad breaks, there were two adverts for universities – the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Edge Hill. And that worries me.

First off, the UCLan advert in particular was a very flashy affair which looked like an advert for some kind of hair product (I was expecting an endorsement of Shockwaves or VO5 Extreme Style or something). That must have cost a bomb to make – and the fact it was during Big Brother meant it can’t have been cheap to broadcast either. So, come Thursday if you’re looking at a university place, would you go for a university that spent your tuition fees on… errr… tuition, or on fancy TV adverts for next year’s Freshers? Remember, on a 3 year degree, you’ll be giving your university around £3500 for tuition alone – make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Secondly, you have to think why they’re advertising. Now I know that almost all universities have some courses that go into clearing. But, if they’re so desperate to get students on board that they need to resort to TV advertising, then maybe they’re not such a good university. UCLan does have a bit of a claim to fame because of its project with Preston City Council to make Preston a Wifi city, but a scour of Google News didn’t find anything really noteworthy about Edge Hill.

Of course, I do have my own interests here – should you be going through Clearing this week I might be the one you’ll speak to if you phone Bradford as I’m working on the central helpline for a couple of weeks. But before you or your parents pay out for an education, think about where you’re putting your money and what you’re going to get from it.

In any case, if your A-level results are out on Thursday, good luck. 🙂


  1. Yeah, I know what you mean. On daytime TV ads around here, between “Declare bankruptcy now, you slob!” adverts are commercials for “universities” – on closer look, despite the flashy ads, the schools are incredibly terrible and aimed at unemployed middle-aged adults.
    Any decent college doesn’t need TV advertising – reputation alone can bring in all the students they need.

  2. I know around here the only time I see TV ads for colleges is during big ten football games. The local university and the cities (we have two cities right across the river from each other) teamed up to make a filler “two great cities, one GREAT university” campaign, but that usually only shows when CBS news doesn’t have anything better to do for 1.5 seconds.

  3. Something noteworthy about Edge Hill: it doesn’t have a charter to award it’s own degrees. Those who graduate from Edge Hill receive degrees from Lancaster University – which doesn’t advertise on TV….
    A difference may be that Edge Hill’s target market mightn’t be those following the traditional academic route, so the non-standard marketing might be appropriate, after all.
    I don’t have a vested interest in saying UCLan is a very impressive institution, with IT facilities rather superior to Lancaster’s (though we’re working on that). I agree that advertising HE institutions on TV implies desperation, but as with Edge Hill, it may be more to do with targeting a particular market sector than a struggle to fill courses.
    Good luck with Clearing, Neil – here at Lancaster the preparations stepped up a gear yesterday. This’ll be my fourth year running the web updates, and I’m SO looking forward to Thursday. Ha!