Since 2000, the educational landscape in South Africa has been undergoing immense changes, which have impacted on the perceptions and consumer behaviour of prospective students. Public tertiary institutions were merged during the period 2000-2004 to form new institutions, while a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was implemented to regulate the programmes that should be provided by tertiary institutions. Due to the above changes, universities and technikons (now known as universities of technology) have been reorganised to meet the needs of different target markets in South Africa (Department of Education, 1998:19-20). In the Cape Metropole, there are now three FET colleges and four universities. There were previously nine of the former and five of the latter. All the current institutions continue to serve the same geographical area as before, while continuing to recruit students from the same target market. Against these changes in the market place, the objective of this study was to determine what the information needs and preferred sources are of high school learners in the Cape metropole, and what definitive subgroups exist within this target market, in order to develop a tailor made IMC plan to effectively reach this market. A review of the literature shows that limited studies have been carried out to measure the high school learner’s information needs regarding further study (Bruwer, 1996; Gaika, 2002; Imenda&Kongolo, 2002). Certain studies have focussed on the perceptions of students attending a university or a technikon. Studies on Further Education and Training colleges have evaluated marketing strategies from the perspective of internal publics, but have not researched the actual information sources used by the market at whom the strategies are aimed. The main component of the research was quantitative empirical research, using questionnaires to determine the information sources high school learners use, the factors they consider important when selecting a tertiary institution and their specific characteristics. Grade 11 learners residing in the Cape Metropole were surveyed, using their secondary schools as the disseminating and surveying point. Nineteen schools in the above areas were surveyed, and just over 920 surveys were administered. It was found that five distinct subgroups exist within the target market, each sharing similar information needs and source preferences when obtaining information about attending a tertiary institution. This information was suitable to be used in proposing an IMC plan for a tertiary institution within the Cape Metropole. Information needs of different subgroups were found to be varied. Information is not limited to only one type of need for the entire target market, but it is recognised that subgroups value certain types of information in order to make decisions about studying further. These needs seem to be impacted by the individual’s socio-economic circumstances, needs that the potential student wishes to meet, and career ambitions. In the same light, the types of sources that the members of different subgroups prefer to consult indicate that each subgroup has specific preferences and that these, too, are influenced by the individual’s socio-economic circumstances. Within the media sources category, the use of specific media vehicles is also specific to each subgroup. The study therefore shows that, for an institution to target the potential student target market as a whole within the Cape Metropole, it has to take cognisance of the different subgroups that exist, and tailor-make the content, presentation and media used according to the preferences of each. The study shows that treating the target market as a single homogeneous market with one message to ‘fit all sizes’ will not successfully reach the market or meet their individual needs. Finally, as in an IMC approach, these individual messages and media need to be integrated and co-ordinated in the institution’s overall marketing strategy.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2007.