Phew. That was a wild ride.

The year 2020 has been a tough one for all of us. With both Brexit and the U.S. elections, it was set to be a political rollercoaster from the very beginning. Nobody could have anticipated, however, the extent to which the industry – and our lives – would be turned upside down. But through all the turmoil and confusion that the global pandemic has brought, there are a few things to be thankful for and many more lessons we can learn. 

As 2021 finally arrives, we’re taking a look at the moments that have defined the year for us and reminded us that there are wins to dwell on even when things get really tough.

We hope you enjoy The Brand Education’s year in review. Here’s to a less trying year ahead!

Digital. First.

We were harping on about this one even before 2020 came along and really drove the point home. For a few years now, the global market dynamics of the higher education sector has been changing. Growth rates in once dependable international markets like China and India are beginning to reach their peaks, whilst lesser-targeted regions like Southeast Asia and Africa are beginning to surge. 

This growing regional diversity in international student populations means that you’ll need to do more than attend a few fairs in select countries to capture your audience’s attention. Global digital campaigns that target learners over demographics will be the approaches that drive results in the coming years.

Your community needs you

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world just how much it needs the innovation that higher education institutions can offer. Aside from the world-changing technologies like the Oxford vaccine, universities throughout the world have contributed significantly to the fight against the virus. From mass producing personal protective equipment to pioneering viral research, we’re proud of the way institutions have worked together for this global cause. 

Even when the pandemic is just a bad memory, there will continue to be pressing global issues that need the immediate attention of universities. As higher education marketers, it’s our job to make sure the world knows just how much good our researchers are doing, no matter the climate.

It’s about more than the classes

The shift to online learning was so jarring for students because, ultimately, university means so much more to them than just a learning experience. Our higher education institutions are places for students to experiment and grow both academically and personally. They’re communities in the truest sense. And that means that you should never underestimate the importance of faculties your university runs to support personal and professional growth. Make sure your marketing efforts treat these faculties with as much care and attention as your course offerings.

Students are financially vulnerable

We think this last point isn’t mentioned often enough. It’s only a small percentage of students out there that can afford the costs of study without a source of income. The rest have to support themselves with jobs, often in the service or hospitality sector. COVID-19 has crippled these industries with devastating consequences for many, reminding us exactly how vulnerable our students can be. We can’t stress how important it is to empathise with this position when it comes to your communications strategy. Remember that finances play a huge part in the decision-making process for students, so make sure they have the information they need when they need it.

There’s a lot to unpack and take away here. However, if there’s one lesson we want you to remember from 2020 its this – resilience. One way or another, we’ve all managed to press on with the important work of educating the next generation of industry leaders. We have adapted. And we’ll continue to adapt as long as there is important work that needs to be done. Things might not get any easier in 2021 but at least we can enter it knowing, as individuals and as an industry, that we’re tougher than we thought.