Head of Marketing and Student Recruitment at Condé Nast College, Agata Mazurkiewicz, discusses why brand matters when choosing where to go for higher education and why selecting your institution is about much more than just education.
Why brand matters when you’re choosing where to go for Higher Education
A big part of my job is student recruitment. Every Higher Education (HE) institution in the world is on a constant mission to find the best people to study with them and it is a never-ending search. However, in some ways, it’s a lot easier being the recruiter than the potential recruit. When we’re at school it’s all about the grades, doing well enough in exams to be able to choose that perfect course in the perfect place. But then?
Students make their choices in many different ways. After all, leaving home for the first time to go off to study is about transformation, not only in terms of education and employability but as people. Individual decisions around Higher Education will continue to impact who exactly people are for the rest of their lives. For some, location is the most important thing – whether to be in a big buzzing city or not, being close enough to or far enough away from home. For others, it’s the specialisation they hunt for; looking for that course that teaches exactly what they want to know to launch them on the path to the career they’ve always wanted. Others don’t really know what they want to do with their lives but they do know they want a higher-level qualification.
Why it’s not all about university rankings
Prospective students can look at the rankings and find out how much graduates from a particular institution go on to earn or check out the student satisfaction rates to see how much people like them did or didn’t enjoy their time there.
A specific course may be ideal for getting that first job, but will it have career-boosting longevity and help them continue to climb the ladder at work? For international students, it’s even more difficult. If you’re looking at institutions in different countries it’s really hard to make comparisons across different societies, economies, and educational systems. You may be applying to study in a country you’ve never visited, let alone a city or town.
I said student recruitment is a big part of my job, but the other part is looking after the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design brand, and for me, looking closely at a particular place’s brand can be a very helpful way of making that choice of where to study.
What brand identity really means
There are some big brands in Higher Education; Oxford and Cambridge here in the UK, Yale, and Harvard, Sorbonne, and Melbourne – all have strong yet distinct identities which are sufficiently attractive to ensure they’re thoroughly over-subscribed with applicants every year.
Here at Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, being associated with one of the most famous publishing names there is creates strong impressions about quality and expertise. This is obviously a great selling point but it’s also a huge responsibility. We have to make sure the quality of our teaching, the relevance and modernity of our courses, and the employment outcomes our qualifications offer are consistently up to the levels associated with the Condé Nast name. Reputations are hard-won and very easily lost and applicants can feel safe in the knowledge that we cannot afford to let our standards drop for a moment because a big name also means big exposure.
The fashion industry is a very connected world, and part of our brand value for students is the networking opportunities the Condé Nast College community provides. In any class, you could be sitting between the next great fashion journalist on one side, a future master of fashion styling on the other. Connections like that can last for a lifetime and be crucial to a successful career.
Behind the Condé Nast College brand values
One area where universities have been criticised in recent years is in terms of creating graduates who may be knowledgeable but aren’t necessarily highly employable. Again, because of the association with a brand that is a heavyweight in business we have to make sure our students learn those employability skills while they’re with us. There’s no room for us to settle and feel comfortable in our own space. Like everything in fashion, if we stood still for a moment the needs of our customers would change and we would become left behind and, worst of all, outdated. At Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, we address subjects like sustainability and low wages in manufacturing because we know that these are issues that matter to those who would study with us and which are of such importance to the industry in the immediate and foreseeable future.
When yours is a highly respected brand people have high expectations. Students who come here expect to be given access to experiences they couldn’t find anywhere else. With that in mind, apart from an incredibly high-powered group of academic staff in our faculty, we pride ourselves on attracting the biggest names in the industry to talk to our students and be questioned by them. Recent examples have included designer Stella McCartney, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Dame Anna Wintour, and Edward Enninful, Editor-In-Chief of British Vogue.
Why Condé Nast College is different
While Condé Nast is a giant brand, we are a very boutique college – and that is possibly our greatest advantage. We are a genuine community where everyone gets to know everyone else and where mutual support and collaboration come more easily than perhaps they do in other less specialised and focused institutions. Our size allows us to be situated at the very heart of the fashion district of one of the most important cities in the world for our industry, with all the excitement and opportunity that brings.
We are the educational face of a giant and prestigious company, with all the advantages of being part of that big organisation as well as the benefits of being intimate, and collegiate. And that is what the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design brand is all about.