3 Trends Shaping Higher Education Marketing

By Penny Warnock

3 Trends Shaping Higher Education Marketing

Higher education has transformed significantly, with universities evolving in how they connect, engage, and communicate. As we navigate this new landscape, higher education marketers are met with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

At this year’s Hashtag HigherEd conference in Newcastle, we spoke with several marketers in the space about the trends and challenges they encounter.

Here are the three most common higher education marketing trends that emerged from our conversations and insights on navigating them effectively.


1. Alumni engagement and community building

Your institution's alumni are your most valuable allies. They act as brand ambassadors, provide valuable feedback, and help maintain a strong community. However, a small percentage of alumni contribute the most. 

Fostering a supportive community among your alumni can encourage greater involvement and boost enrollments for years to come.


Engagement: building a lifelong community

Build a community of lifelong advocates by organizing regular events, both online and offline, that cater to alumni interests. Exclusive content, such as behind-the-scenes campus updates or interviews with notable faculty, keeps alumni feeling valued and involved.

Creating a strong community among alumni encourages continuous support and interaction with the university. For example, hosting networking events, reunions, and webinars can keep alumni engaged. Developing an app or portal with exclusive alumni content and updates can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty.

Donations: demonstrating impact

While securing donations from alumni is crucial, convincing them to contribute requires demonstrating the impact of their donations. Research indicates that a small percentage of alumni typically account for a significant portion of university or college contributions.

Transparent communication about how donations are used, whether funding scholarships or improving facilities, can inspire more alumni to dig deeper.

For example, sharing stories of scholarship recipients who have thrived thanks to alumni contributions can illustrate the difference these donations make.


Long-term relationships: advocates for life

Consider a mentorship program that connects alumni with current students. Such initiatives provide invaluable guidance to students and strengthen alumni ties to the institution, creating a cycle of support and advocacy.

Institutions can cultivate long-term relationships by maintaining regular communication and offering continued support. Alumni who feel valued and connected are more likely to advocate for their alma mater. Establishing mentorship programs, career services, and alumni advisory boards can create meaningful connections that benefit alumni and current students.

Read: The 2024 Complete Guide to: Higher Education Marketing


2. Maintaining cohesive branding and messaging

A solid institutional identity depends on consistent and unified branding across all departments and campuses. However, many universities struggle with fragmented messaging and visual identity due to siloed marketing efforts.

Siloed teams: breaking down barriers

If a prospective student visits a university’s website and encounters inconsistent or conflicting information, it’s not the best experience and could deter potential applicants. The root of this issue often lies in higher education marketing teams or departments working in silos, leading to fragmented communication. Institutions have to get better at content collaboration

Regular inter-departmental meetings, shared content creation platforms, and unified brand guidelines ensure everyone is aligned and presenting a cohesive message. Marketing efforts should be coordinated across all departments to ensure brand consistency


Inconsistent branding: the need for continuity 

Inconsistent branding can confuse and alienate prospective students, and disparate branding efforts across departments and locations can dilute the brand’s impact when promoting higher education brochures. A centralized brand guide or documented brand strategy is critical for marketing teams who want to maintain coherence and build a recognizable institutional identity.

Making a brand guide covering everything from logo usage to tone of voice help ensure all departments adhere to a unified brand vision. Ensure this information is accessible to all, and consider leveraging content platforms that allow you to collaborate with multiple departments when creating student prospectuses.

Integrated marketing: a smooth student journey

As we’ve seen, cross-functional collaboration is essential for creating a seamless student journey. When prospective students receive consistent messaging in the same style from their first interaction through graduation and beyond, it reinforces the institution’s credibility and trust. 

For instance, integrating marketing with the admissions process ensures prospective students receive relevant information. Personalized campaigns, engaging social media content, and informative webinars can make the student’s journey smoother and more engaging, increasing the likelihood of enrollment and long-term loyalty.

Consistent messaging and coordinated campaigns can enhance the student experience from their initial inquiry to their experience as alumni. Collaboration between marketing, admissions, and student services is essential to ensure that every touchpoint reinforces the institution’s brand and values.

University of Waterloo Docs

Read: University of Waterloo Wins 5 Awards After Combining Print and Digital Content


3. Integrity and transparency in university branding

In an age where students are increasingly socially aware, integrity and transparency in university branding are fundamental. Today’s students demand authenticity and ethical conduct from their institutions.

Integrity: walking the talk

Universities often claim leadership in various fields, but these claims must be backed by actions. For example, if a university promotes itself as a leader in sustainability, it should have visible initiatives and measurable outcomes to support this claim.

At the Newcastle conference, several speakers emphasized the importance of integrity in branding, sharing stories of universities that faced backlash for making unsubstantiated claims. The lesson is clear: authenticity matters. Institutions must be honest about their achievements and transparent about their higher education marketing challenges.

Social awareness: acknowledge and address

Students today are hyper-aware of social issues and expect their institutions to address them. 

They demand transparency, including acknowledging historical ties and making efforts to rectify past wrongs. For this reason, student protests are happening worldwide, and the average Gen Z student is more in tune with social issues than previous generations. 

Prof Patrizia Nanz, the president of the European University Institute, says,

“Whether or not one agrees with the students’ demands, they are right to take administrators to task when they ask for transparency about their university’s financial and corporate ties. This should be standard practice, not a discussion prompted by a crisis.”

Transparent communication can enhance the institution’s reputation and build trust. For instance, a university with historical ties to controversial figures can address this by openly discussing it, explaining the context, and outlining steps to address the legacy. This can build trust and align the institution with the values of its current and prospective students.

Discover: education customer examples.



To succeed in the competitive higher education landscape, focus on alumni engagement, breaking down silos, maintaining cohesive branding, building trust, and demonstrating integrity.

Leveraging a platform like Foleon can help. Foleon enables flawless collaboration across departments, ensuring consistent and cohesive brand messaging. Plus, your whole team can easily create personalized, interactive content that engages diverse audiences, from prospective students to alumni.

By leveraging these trends and embracing Foleon, you can foster a vibrant, connected community and drive your institution’s success in a dynamic educational environment.

Penny Warnock

Penny Warnock is the Content Marketer extraordinaire here at Foleon. With a background in SaaS, product marketing, journalism, and brand building, Penny is passionate about storytelling and generating engaging content across various digital channels.

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