An evaluation of marketing positioning in four year colleges and universities

Cynthia Marie Gerke-Newman, University of Pennsylvania


The central research question of the study was: to what extent have higher education administrators at four year institutions in the United States properly understood and appropriately practiced the marketing concept of positioning. The main goal of the study was to produce information that would facilitate an assessment of the extent to which the elements and purposes of positioning, as prescribed by the marketing literature, are present among these institutions. The primary investigation of the research question and related variables was through a national, random sample survey of chief admissions and enrollment officers at four year colleges. In addition to the survey, an evaluation of actual positioning statements from various institutions occurred. Analysis of results was guided by a prescriptive model of positioning developed by the researcher. The results of the study, according to the aforementioned positioning model, indicated that the concept of positioning is not widely understood nor appropriately practiced even though most administrators who participated in the study believed they practice positioning. The only variable that appeared to be significantly related to the proper understanding of positioning was the campus setting with more urban institutions than expected demonstrating a proper understanding of positioning. The variables of institutional control, institution size, and Carnegie classification did not demonstrate significant relationships to either the proper understanding or appropriate practice of positioning. A continuum of understanding and practice in the area of positioning and higher education emerged from the analysis. The continuum ranges from those institutions that do not even view themselves as different from competitors (a "no positioning" point) to those that not only understand positioning, but also engage in appropriate practice (a "full positioning" point). Most institutions and administrators are closer to the "no positioning" point than to the "full positioning" point, even though many administrators believe they are practicing positioning. The resulting charge to educators of higher education administrators and consultants to higher education institutions is to move enrollment and admissions administrators along the continuum toward the "full positioning" end of the continuum where the positioning concept is both properly understood and appropriately practiced.

Subject Area

Higher education|Marketing

Recommended Citation

Gerke-Newman, Cynthia Marie, "An evaluation of marketing positioning in four year colleges and universities" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829962.