This blog looks at the image that applicants have of JAMK University of Applied Sciences in 2018. The goal of the study was to explore the images that the JAMK University of Applies Sciences applicants had of the school, of Jyväskylä as a student city, the degree programmes and the information seeking channels. This was a longitudinal study, as similar studies had been carried out in 2013–2017. The longitudinal study can be a means of predicting upcoming changes and detecting weak signals.
Benefits of the research project
The study offers a great opportunity to compare the results and the goals of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences’ external communications and how the communications have managed to reach the potential applicants, as well as how the activities of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences are perceived by the client segment in question. The study provides an answer to the question of how potential clients view the activities of the JAMS University of Applied Sciences.
Execution of the study
The study was carried out in the form of an online survey in May 2018. The JAMK University of Applied Sciences’ Student Services sent all JAMK applicants an e-mail invite to the survey. The response rate was 19.3% (1133/5883), which can be considered to be a good response rate for an online survey. The response rates from previous years have stood at the same level. The study incorporated both structured and open questions. The data analysis used frequency distribution, cross tabulation and statistical parameters. The answers to open questions were classified. The 2018 research data was compared to the previous years’ similar distributions.
Applicant images of JAMK
The applicants’ spontaneous images of JAMK University of Applied Sciences were enquired by using an open question. The results indicate the first thing that comes to a responder’s mind of the topic of the study. The responses were compared to distributions from 2017, 2016 and 2015. According to the responders, the JAMK University of Applied Sciences is (2018):
- of high quality 12% (2017: 13%, 2016: 14%, 2015: 14%)
- versatile 6% (2017: 7%, 2016: 9%, 2015: 9%)
- international 4% (2017: 4%, 2016: 5%, 2015: 4%)
- modern 4% (2017: 4%, 2016: 5%, 2015: 3%)
In addition to the open question, the respondents’ images of JAMK University of Applied Sciences were measured by using a structured scale for selected qualities, including “international, modern, working life-oriented, the best university of applied sciences in Finland, encourages to entrepreneurship, practical, competent, flexible, excellent educator, innovative, and developer of the working life.” JAMK University of Applied Sciences received the best scores for reputation (average = 3.6), competence (avg. = 3.5), flexibility (avg. = 3.5) and modernity (avg. = 3.5). No significant changes have taken place in these profiles in the past four years of study.
The study compared the general university application factors and the profile of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences, i.e. its performance, using the means of the importance-performance analysis. The IP analysis reviews the importance given to the factors and the factors placement in a fourfold table. Although applicants do not possess experience of the factors, they do have an image of them, generated through marketing measures, other people’s experiences and different channels of communication.
It can be said that investments in reputation, competence, modernity, practicality, working life-orientation and flexibility are in balance. For these factors, the current level should be maintained (level to maintain). Investments in internationality and youthfulness are overinvested in (overservice). Additional attention should be paid to working life development, as it is threatening to drop down to the right-hand bottom quadrant. Placed in the group receiving little attention (little importance and minor realisation) are the expressions “the best university of applied sciences in Finland” and “encourages entrepreneurship.”
Overinvestment can be detected in some of the factors. The students do not consider internationality to be a particularly important factor when applying to a university (2018: avg. = 2.32, 2017: avg. = 2.36), but Jyväskylä’s reputation in internationality far surpasses its importance (2018: avg. = 3.39, 2017 avg. = 3.45), with a +1.07 gap. Overinvestment can be detected in encouraging entrepreneurship (gap 2018: +0.86, 2018 = +0.87). Minor underinvestment can be detected in competence (-0.24) and working life-orientation (-0.19). The ratios have remained similar, when compared to previous years’ results.
It is important for the marketing and communications of a university to be aware of the channels on which potential applicants search for and receive information of the universities. Applicant influencing takes place on certain channels that do not equal the public channels of communication working up the general public image of the university. This study reviews the importance that the following channels have in the application phase: “JAMK applicant guide, university of applied sciences applicant guide, acquaintances, friends, family, fairs, JAMK website, newspapers/radio/TV, school counsellor, employment office, social media, school visits, JAMK University of Applied Sciences teachers/faculty, JAMK Applicant Services (Admissions office), students of the JAMKS University of Applied Sciences.”
According to the applicants, the most important source of information when applying to the JAMK University of Applied Sciences is the website, because nearly half (44%) of the applicants considers the website to be “very important.” The University of Applied Sciences’ Applicant Guide is a “very important” source of information for about every one in four (24%) applicants. Another important source of information are acquaintances, friends and family, as almost every one in six (15%) regards them as a very important source of information. The students of the university of applied sciences also have importance as sources of information (10%). No great changes in the importance of these channels have taken place during the past few years.
The role of social media as a tool in today’s communications is a hot topic. The study requested the respondents to review the importance of the following social media as sources of information: “blogs, open discussion forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, closed discussion forums (extranet, closed client communities.)”
In the light of this study, social media channels do not possess a great importance as a source of information, because they received the smallest input of all variables in comparison to more traditional channels. The importance of traditional channels stands at 1.9 (somewhat), whereas the importance of social media remains at 1.3 (not at all). The most important social media channels include Facebook (avg. = 1.6) and discussion forums (avg. = 1.5). It appears that the importance of social media channels has remained at the same level throughout the period of study, from 2013 to 2018, yet a slight increase can be detected.
The role of Jyväskylä as a student city
The study sought to assess the city of Jyväskylä as a student city. The respondents were asked to consider the importance of the following factors: “girlfriend/boyfriend lives in Jyväskylä, friends live in Jyväskylä, parents live in Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä is a student city, the location of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä is the nearest city of study, hobbies, nightlife, getting a flat and transport connections.”
According to the results, the location of Jyväskylä has a great importance in the application phase. One in three (31%) applicants considered that the location of Jyväskylä was “very important”, as well as Jyväskylä being the nearest place they could study in (28%). Hardly any changes have taken place in the importance of these factors in the time period from 2013 to 2018.
The role of degree programmes in making selection
The respondents were asked to review the importance of the degree programmes in the university of applied sciences with regard to the following factors: “contents of the degree programme, a friend has given positive feedback, the reputation of the university of applied sciences, future prospects, must apply somewhere, easy to get in and parents with an entrepreneur background.”
Here, the most significant factor for choosing the degree programme are its contents, as half (56%) of the applicants regard the contents as a very important factor (avg. = 3.4) in making the selection. Future prospects hold a similarly important role (50% consider this to be a very important factor, avg. = 3.3). The reputation of JAMK University of Applied Sciences is another important factor (9%, avg. = 2.2). Compared to the previous years’ results, hardly any changes have taken place in the applicants’ assessments of the factors that influence the choice of degree programme.
Threats and opportunities
The last question (an open question) asked the respondents to assess the positive and negative comments they have heard of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences. Positive comments included the high quality of instruction. Flexibility, often in connection to part-time and online studies, was also mentioned several times.
Around one in ten (14 %) applicants stated having heard negative comments. The differences between fields were significant. Of the applicants in the Cultural field, approximately one in three (32 %) had heard at least one negative comment of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences, whereas the numbers were one in five (20%) for Information Technology (Bachelor of Business Administration), and one in five (19%) in the Social and Healthcare field of study. Applicants to the fields of Natural Resources (0%) and Tourism and Services Management (7%) had heard the least negative comments. Some positive things, such as the quality of instruction, also came up as negative issues. This conflict of considering the quality of instruction as both a strength and a weakness can depend on the differences between degree programmes.
Reliability and validity of the results
Hardly any change has taken place in the results during the past three years, which indicates that the JAMK University of Applied Sciences applicant image is well established. Stable results also indicate the reliability of the study. In this respect, the study can be regarded as highly reliable. The external validity was also successful, as the response rate equalled nearly 20% (19.3%).
Jorma Kananen, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, School of Business, Principal Lecturer (em) Research and Development, jorma.kananen (at) jamk.fi. The author is a teacher of digital marketing and social media at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.
Kananen, J. 2017. Applicant study 2017. Jyväskylä: Publications of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.
Kananen, J. 2016. Applicant study 2016. Jyväskylä: Publications of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.
Kananen, J. 2015. Applicant study 2015. Jyväskylä: Publications of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.