How UK Universities Are Using Content Marketing to Recruit Students

Photo of student studying from above

With 162 universities in the UK offering 27,000 courses, competition to recruit students is fierce. In 2017, university applications were down by 4%, and with some institutions charging as much as £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree (up to £35,000 for international students), enrolling in university is a decision that students don’t take lightly.


Applicants no longer base their decisions on the content of a prospectus. In fact, 16.1% of students now see a university’s brand as one of the most important factors when choosing where to study.


Today’s digital-savvy teenagers spend 27 hours a week online, and universities need to be where their target audience is. The way that universities communicate with potential applicants is changing, and content marketing is playing an ever-increasing role.


The University of Sheffield


In a bid to attract more international students following the Brexit result in 2016, the University of Sheffield launched their #WeAreInternational campaign on Twitter to show their commitment to inclusivity.


The hashtag was used to promote a series of videos, showcasing the stories of their current international students. Since the campaign’s launch, the hashtag has been adopted by universities worldwide and the We Are International Website continues to promote inclusivity and diversity in higher education.



The University of Cambridge


It may be the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, but the University of Cambridge doesn’t rest on its laurels when it comes to student recruitment.


On social media, the University strikes the perfect balance of promoting its rich history and demonstrating its contemporary offerings to students. Using the hashtag #GoingToCambridge, the University celebrates the successes of its new students while simultaneously highlighting its aspirational legacy.


Screenshot of University of Cambridge tweet


Cambridge also uses student vloggers as part of its video content strategy to provide useful advice to new undergraduates. Covering a range of topics from waiting on A-Level results, to what to bring to uni, the University demonstrates its marketing expertise.



This year, the University has been making use of ‘behind-the-scenes’ video content to promote the Stormzy Scholarship, spearheaded by the rapper, who is funding two black British students to go to the University.



The London School of Economics


With a Twitter account dedicated to prospective students, LSE uses the platform to promote its Destination LSE events. The meetups are designed to bring together soon-to-be students with past students from the University, all over the world.


Screenshot of the London School of Economics Twitter


LSE also using video content to showcase its ‘day in the life’ video diaries from current students. These videos bring a sense of authenticity to the University’s marketing efforts and provide genuine insights into student life.



The University of St Andrews


This year, St Andrews has been embracing video content on Facebook Live (in time for Clearing Adjustment deadlines). The University hosted a live chat session with their Students Association and Registry staff, inviting new students to ask questions about the uni. This student-focused approach demonstrates the level of support that students can expect from the University.



Durham University


What better way for prospective students to find out what it’s really like to study at Durham than from those who are already there. The University has its own dedicated student blog where undergraduate and postgraduate students share their thoughts, experiences, and advice on university life. Covering everything from Fresher’s Week to preparing for a year studying abroad, Durham’s student blog is a great example of how university’s can use student-generated content as part of their content strategy.



Emma Shearer, Marketing Coordinator at the University says: ‘‘Our students are genuinely the best advocates of the Durham University experience. The passion they have for their college, course and the city really comes through in their blog posts. As well as providing useful information to potential students, each of our bloggers develop skills, gain valuable experience and create something tangible to add to their CV.’’


The University of Aberdeen


The University of Aberdeen has always had a strong focus on employability, reflected in the fact that its graduates earn some of the highest starting salaries in the UK. As part of its student recruitment campaign this year, the university has been using video content to showcase the careers of recent graduates. Showing the successes of past students helps reinforce the university’s unique offering of being career-oriented.


Screenshot of the University of Aberdeen Twitter


The University of Manchester


The University of Manchester attracts more international students than any other UK university, and this is reflected in their content marketing. On their International pages, the University offers country-specific information for would-be students. With no less than 60 countries listed, each page offers detailed insights into the country’s links with the university.


The content covers a range of topics, from student population statistics, to societies and careers information. This personalised, local approach to content is genuinely useful to overseas students and demonstrates the University’s commitment to attracting an international audience.


Screenshot of the University of Manchester website


Neil Condron, Content Manager at the University says: ‘‘At the University of Manchester, we have students from more than 160 countries. As you can imagine, there are a lot of different ways in which our prospective students learn about and apply to our University.


“Our country pages help us give specific information to a prospective student, from scholarships and entry routes to visits and our agents in their country. They can find everything in one place.


“Working with our International Office, we developed a simple tab-based template for these pages but we still have a lot of flexibility to customise these for particular requirements and campaigns.”


The University of Leeds


As a city, Leeds is known for its culture, particularly in the fields of music, art, and television. The University plays to the strengths of the city by sharing cultural content on social media that will appeal to students.


Screenshot of the University of Leeds Twitter


Leeds University also makes effective use of the content platform Medium, taking advantage of its large network of users. There aren’t many UK universities that publish on Medium from an official account (by contrast, a lot of university representatives do), so Leeds is able to position itself as a thought leader in the higher education sphere within the platform.


Screenshot of University of Leeds Medium account


Martin Carter, Social Media Manager at the University says: “We use Medium as a platform to sit between our social channels and our official website. We use it to house long-form content from academics, or stories about the University, such as this one on our musical history, or recently, on our long-standing relationship with the NHS.


Our academic community find it a really useful space for their ideas, and we continue to find the read rates encouraging. Plus, Medium displays content beautifully on mobile devices, so allows us to tell more in-depth stories about the University in an appealing way”.


Coventry University


As the fastest-growing university in the UK, Coventry is known for its focus on student experience. With over 400 video uploads on its YouTube channel, the University has an impressive catalogue of useful, student-centred videos. From accommodation tours to Open Day events, Coventry’s video library covers an incredible range of topics.



Since 2011, Brand New Copy has been helping higher education clients improve their written communications and content marketing efforts. If your university needs help with its written content, get in touch at


Jamie Thomson

Jamie Thomson is an award-winning senior copywriter and the owner Brand New Copy copywriting studio. With over 15 years professional writing experience, he helps companies engage with their target audience through tailored content strategies and exceptional copywriting.

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