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Seven strategies universities should embrace to attract postgraduate students

11 / 07 / 2017Fiona Doherty

An increasing number of final year students are turning to postgraduate study – but with so many institutions offering excellent courses, how do you make your university stand out from the crowd? What are the best strategies to attract postgraduate students? 

1. Emphasise your employability record

It is important to mention all of the wider benefits of postgraduate study, but a focus on employability is vital. Ensure that when providing details about postgraduate courses you directly address how they will benefit students in the long term. Employability is key in a student’s decision making process. They want to know what specific skills will be learnt from your course that will increase their chances of securing a job in the future. Highlight data on employability success rates and career routes of course graduates, and consider including testimonials from alumni who have enjoyed successful careers as a result. 

2. Shout about your funding and accommodation options

Potential students want to know where – and how – they will live when studying a postgraduate degree. Therefore, you need to make sure that you provide enough information about funding and accommodation options. These details can be a deciding factor for some students and having all the key information readily available will make a good impression. All the key information should be clearly displayed in relevant promotional material both online and in print. That way, students can quickly find out if your university offers funding and accommodation that suits their needs.

3. Go above and beyond at postgraduate fairs

Attending fairs is essential for engaging students. You have the opportunity to talk to students face to face while learning about what other universities have on offer. In order to give your university a competitive edge, it’s crucial that your stand is manned by individuals who can provide valuable, in depth information to students. We would strongly recommend bringing a course administrator who will be able to go into detail about courses and the postgraduate experience at your university. It is also a good idea to have a postgraduate student present to talk to people about the actual university experience. Offering students a real insight in to what it is like to attend the university from another student’s perspective can make all the difference when decision-making.

4. Make the most of your digital presence

Check that all of the information about your courses, your institution and your unique selling points is easily accessible online, as it is the primary channel through which students search for courses and compare institutions. Having a digital prospectus, an online map or even a virtual tour are great ways of engaging with students. 39% of users access the site from their mobile devices.* It is therefore crucial that not only your website is easy to navigate but also optimised for mobile devices, as students want information on the go.

5. Use current students as social media ambassadors

Social media is widely used by employers to reach undergraduates, so it is important that universities do the same. Make sure you have an area from which you talk about your postgraduate courses and showcase what great further study options you have. There is a relatively untapped market when it comes to potential postgraduate students. Peer-to-peer review is increasingly important. Get current postgraduate students involved on your social media platforms in order to attract the next generation. Consider letting current students ‘takeover’ your visual social media channels, like Instagram and Snapchat, to portray a day in the life of a student. Not only does it showcase what graduate life is really like, but it highlights the strong relationship your university has with its students.

6. Don’t forget about print materials

Don’t forget about the benefits of print. Giving students information to take away with them at fairs is a way of ensuring that your university remains a consideration. Fliers, brochures and prospectuses all give potential students a flavour of your university. By using student careers publications, potential applicants are able to compare very similar courses from a wide range of universities, so your inclusion in these is very important. These publications are distributed to universities around the country, so your involvement means that your university and postgraduate courses will get showcased to a wide range of students. It is also possible to target students interested in specific sectors such as engineering, teaching and consulting, by featuring postgraduate courses in sector guides. This is a good idea if you have a department that doesn’t tend to receive a large volume of applications as it will give your courses a lot more visibility.

7. Define your collective brand

It is crucial that universities have a clear key message that resonates across all departments. You should be promoting your university as a collective entity, so make sure that your departments work closely to uphold a consistent brand. Where will this course take me? What’s it going to include? What has it done for other people? What do other people say about the university and courses? Outline the key questions students will be asking. It needs to be clear what the answers to those questions are for your university. Students want to know about the outcome of studying at your university. What can you offer them?

GTI and TARGETpostgrad are passionate about supporting career development and helping universities connect with potential postgraduate students. To find out more about how TARGETpostgrad can benefit your university, get in touch with us today on 01491 828900 or email

*September 2017

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