Shift learning

Market research for the Education sector

Case studies

The Brief

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is one of the largest providers of accounting and bookkeeping qualifications in the UK. A wide variety of prospective students contact the AAT sales team with qualification enquiries.

Following previous research conducted by Shift Learning in 2013, AAT wanted us to conduct further research into their marketing and communications support for potential prospects, in order to enhance their understanding of the prospect journey, and the sorts of communications support that would be most helpful to potential prospects when deciding to study for an AAT qualification.
AAT were also looking to understand more about the different needs and backgrounds of the wide range of prospective students that contact their sales team, as well as the factors that influence them to study for an AAT qualification.

The Brief

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is one of the largest providers of accounting and bookkeeping qualifications in the UK. While AAT qualifications are traditionally taken by career changes, AAT had noticed an increase in the number of younger students (aged 16-19) applying to their courses, with many of these looking to study AAT qualifications post GCSEs and A-Levels.
AAT wanted to better understand the motivations, needs and ambitions of this younger audience, as well as to gain a clear picture of the different types of younger prospects.

The Brief

Access All Areas (AAA) is a learning disabled theatre company based in East London. They wanted to assess the viability of a profit-making training subsidiary to support their charitable aims, and asked Shift Learning to undertake a market review in two sectors: education and healthcare. The research looked to inform a fit-for-purpose training proposition in each of these sectors by investigating approximate market size and pricing levels and identifying key decision makers and routes to market.

The Brief

In response to the growing interest in their Registered Project Professional (RPP) standard, an updated competency framework and a drive towards making the standard more accessible to a wider range of professionals while maintaining its current rigour, APM were working towards refreshing the standard. They wanted to ensure that the standard offered a consistent supply of competent professionals of the quality, quantity and diversity required by the market both now and in the future. As a result APM commissioned Shift Learning to carry out research that would gauge and assess the appeal and viability of the refreshed standard amongst a range of key stakeholders, exploring assessment criteria, assessment methods, processes and CPD requirements.

The Brief

Our client, a leading awarding organisation (AO), wanted to explore whether they should offer further CPD provision to their UK customers. The AO already offered some ‘light’ CPD in certain subject areas, and had engaged in some early research on what CPD they could provide. This research took that investigation further. In particular, our client wanted to understand the professional development needs of their customers and to gain their feedback on a number of new CPD propositions.

The Brief

Our client, a leading awarding organisation (AO), wanted to explore whether they should offer further CPD provision to their UK customers. The AO already offered some ‘light’ CPD in certain subject areas, and had engaged in some early research on what CPD they could provide. This research took that investigation further. In particular, our client wanted to understand the professional development needs of their customers and to gain their feedback on a number of new CPD propositions. City & Guilds came to us wanting to explore potential strategy options for a teaching and learning support product in a key subject area. They wished to understand customer satisfaction with current products, and to test a series of hypotheses to see how they could develop a product to meet the needs of both institutions and their students.

The Brief

In light of the UK education regulator Ofqual’s consultation on reform of the UK qualification system this awarding organisation (AO) wished to be able to respond appropriately by getting a better understanding of what customers in the various sectors value in this area, particularly in relation to those points which might be subject to change. The AO asked Shift Learning to investigate specifically the GCE sector in international markets and the needs and wants concerning these qualifications amongst stakeholders such as parents, students, universities, schools, and institutions including other regulatory bodies and the British Council, focusing in particular on the areas proposed for change.

The Brief

Video content on the BBC Active Video for Learning website was previously navigated via a set of fourteen broad categories.

BBC Active asked Shift Learning to develop a set of appropriate sub-categories to apply to the online content of over 2,000 products within the BBC catalogue, for each of these fourteen main category areas.

The Brief

The British Council wanted to test reaction to a set of propositions for a new set of initiatives aimed at HE institutions in MINT countries and in the UK. The proposed initiative aimed to support HEIs in these countries in developing their internationalisation approaches. The British Council asked Shift Learning to develop and conduct research to consult with figures in leadership roles in order to investigate:

  • Key challenges and areas of focus over the next 12 months
  • The priority placed on internationalisation in their overall strategies
  • The make-up of their internationalisation strategies
  • Their reaction to the proposition
  • Background to budgets and key decision makers

The Brief

The British Council commissioned this research in order to understand the influence of parents and governors within primary school and secondary school classrooms across the UK. The research also investigated parent and governor awareness of the educational charity and its products and services, as well as the awareness they had of its competitors.

The Brief

CACHE (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) wanted to understand how they could grow their business through short term product development, concentrating on current and potential business areas, products and services. Shift Learning’s research helped CACHE to identify priority markets, products and services that would help their business to expand, by providing evidence based recommendations on both their current portfolio and potential new products and services.

In addition CACHE wanted Shift to review their current customer satisfaction survey, recommending changes that would strengthen the work and produce further depth in the results.

The Brief

Cambridge International Examinations were looking to develop an online resource that allows teachers and exams officers across the world to analyse the results of their student cohorts. Our research aimed to test the usability, design and value of the service to ensure that it meets the needs of users.

The Brief

Cambridge University Press English Language Teaching (ELT) division came to Shift Learning with a brief to support them in a comprehensive audit that would uncover the sources of their equity and identify the key attributes that may be better leveraged to deliver a refreshed brand architecture framework. The results of this research would be used to ensure that all Cambridge University Press ELT outputs are synchronized with optimal brand positioning across product lines, publishing media and communication channels.

The Brief

Cengage Learning publishes textbooks for students in HE in both printed and e-formats, supplementing these with a range of digital assets – provided free or as a bundle. As a basis for developing new digital supplements, Cengage commissioned Shift Learning to deliver a strong base of feedback from students including the digital materials they find most useful, how new resources are discovered and whether there are any unmet needs that Cengage could be addressing in the digital environment.

The Brief

The CSP required a robust piece of research which explored the attitudes, drivers, influences and preferences of core member segments. The research aimed to inform a holistic and member-centric communication and engagement strategy, as well as to offer evidence to support other business decisions across the society.

Shift Learning set out to better understand key motivating and driving factors for engagement; members’ perceptions of the CSP; and preferences regarding communication.

Background

City & Guilds came to us wanting to explore potential strategy options for a teaching and learning support product in a key subject area. They wished to understand customer satisfaction with current products, and to test a series of hypotheses to see how they could develop a product to meet the needs of both institutions and their students.

Background

Over the last four years, Shift Learning has completed a number research projects for City & Guilds, helping them to develop competitive qualifications and products that meet the needs of an ever-changing market.

We have worked on projects across a number of their key markets, helping them to better understand the needs of consumers. This has provided clear evidence-based recommendations on marketing and communications, qualification development and the development of online products that support students studying towards their qualifications.

The Brief

City, University of London commissioned Shift Learning to analyse data which they had collected from postgraduate students during the 2015 application process. They were keen to gain a synopsis of the profile of applicants for each course, as well as at university level. In addition, City were interested in segmenting their postgraduate applicants based on their responses in order to develop a strategic marketing approach and refined application process.

The Brief

City, University of London were keen to run an online survey with prospective students who had declined their 2016 postgraduate offers. The research set out to understand reasons for declining, as well as satisfaction levels with the application process in order to provide background for new recruitment strategies in 2017. City commissioned Shift Learning to produce timely, relevant and useful reports at a course, school and university level.

The Brief

Collins Learning was looking to develop a digital learning environment for teacher and student use. The aim of this research was to ensure the platform, Collins Connect, was intuitive, user friendly and met the needs of secondary school teachers.

The Brief

The European Cancer Congress (ECCO) attracts a multi-disciplinary audience every year, with 18, 500 delegates attending in 2014.

ECCO were looking to conduct research around delegates’ experiences of their 2015 congress, which was held in Vienna in September 2015, with a view to developing and enhancing future congresses. They were interested in approaching this via both quantitative and qualitative research methods in order to gain a variety of perspectives on the delegate experience.

In particular, ECCO wanted to understand delegates’ perceptions of the congress. They were looking to enhance aspects of the conference programme, with a view to improving the congress across their multi-disciplinary audience.

The Brief

An educational publishing client commissioned Shift Learning to explore the use of technology within secondary schools. The findings of this research built upon a similar project conducted within the primary sector; and provided a solid perspective of the changing landscape within the education environment. Market needs, points of pain and likes with regards to technology were uncovered, as were usage patterns and interface preferences. This research helped the client to understand the direction in which schools are moving towards with technology and supported decision making around product development.

The Brief

EES for Schools were developing a new product, School Effectiveness+, a complete improvement system for schools which enables them to evaluate themselves, identify their strengths and weaknesses, benchmark against other schools, and have a clear view of their improvement priorities.

To support the product launch, EES for Schools were looking to develop a marketing strategy for School Effectiveness+. As part of this, they needed to gain a better understanding of the different types of schools that would be interested in using the service, and which aspects were likely to be most important to them. They wanted to gain a broad insight into the differing needs of their user-base, and then develop a marketing communications strategy that would appeal to the different demographics within it.

The Brief

The ESC represents 68,000 cardiology professionals and runs the largest Cardiology congress in the world, with over 35000 delegates attending from 112 countries worldwide. With CME requirements and funding regulations all changing the way in which medical professionals engage with their professional societies, the ESC wanted to ensure that they were well placed to meet the needs of their members and delegates by better understanding their drivers to attend and satisfaction with the event.

The Brief

i2i were looking to update their existing Education Show offer to ensure that the show delivers an optimal experience for new and existing visitors. As part of this, i2i had developed a new proposition for the show, which they sought to test in the research. This comprised several elements, including a new dateline, seminar content and structure, and exhibitors for the show.

The Brief

The ICSA were keen to re-evaluate their offering to their members and find new opportunities for products and services. We had many objectives within this research; the most notable being to understand the potential market size for membership and training; key and emerging segments within this market; the nature of the broader business qualifications market; and the needs of the professional education market outside the role of Charted Secretaries.

The Brief

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) were looking to expand its Faraday programme into primary, by making free engineering-related teaching resources readily available for primary teachers. Research needed to be undertaken to understand what level of demand there is for resources to help teach this content, what the Faraday programme should consist of at a primary level, and how it should be marketed.



The Brief

International Students House (ISH) is a charity dedicated to British and International Students in London. They provide a vibrant student centre and accommodation for over 600 people across 4 London sites. It is used by students attending London universities that are part of their International Partnership Scheme. Fundamentally, ISH provides talented young people with a “home away from home” at one of the most crucial stages in their lives and personal development. Underpinned by the desire to promote better international relations and culture, it not only provides more affordable living, but also social engagement, extracurricular activities, support services to international students, and scholarships to enable overseas students to study in London and return home to assist in their country’s development.

ISH were eager to gain feedback from their residents, alumni and service users in order to determine their level of satisfaction with ISH accommodation and services; to ensure that they are meeting their mission; and to examine where they could improve in future to raise resident and user satisfaction even further.

The Brief

Jisc were investigating the business case for hosting and delivering an equipment sharing portal for UK universities. Having gathered a large amount of source material, the Jisc project team commissioned Shift Learning to analyse and assimilate the material to create a market research report to be used as evidence on which to base the business decision.

The Brief

The London Borough of Newham have made significant progress in the education standards of Newham primary and secondary schools. They want to close the disparities that exist between perception and reality to ensure that primary care givers and residents of Newham are fully aware of the quality of Newham schools and the education they offer. Shift Learning was commissioned to conduct research into the drivers behind the current perceptions of education in Newham and to provide an integrated and effective communications and marketing plan addressing multiple stakeholders, ready for implementation in the 2013/2014 academic year.

The Brief

Following our previous research into their 2014 Congress, a well-known medical society approached Shift Learning to conduct in-depth fieldwork research at their 2015 Congress. The society’s Congresses attract medical specialists from around the world and are held annually each year.
This research aimed specifically to determine barriers to attendees’ participation at the Congress, and any potential areas for further development at future Congresses. The society also wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of the different medical professionals within their audience, and the best ways for the society to be able to continue to meet the needs of these segments.

The Brief

OUP wanted to carry out research to discover if a new KS3 Shakespeare series would be attractive to schools, and wanted to test a range of design options with teachers to see which learners and teachers at this level would find most appealing. In addition to this, OUP were keen to test the effect that a partnership with a well-known Shakespeare brand might have on the uptake of the series.

In order to achieve this, OUP needed to gain an understanding of the impact of the KS3 curriculum changes in schools and the needs of teachers and learners at this level.

The Brief

Oxford Brookes University were investigating the potential for a new foundation degree in film and digital media. Oxford Brookes asked Shift Learning to investigate the potential of the new programme amongst employers, and to gauge employer reaction to the foundation degree as a pre-entry qualification and as a suitable avenue for in-work professional training.

The Brief

Shift Learning have been running a brand tracking eSurvey for Pearson College London since 2013. The 2015 survey had two key objectives:

  • To track awareness of Pearson College London amongst key audiences and benchmarking this against competitor institutions
  • To establish what messages are being picked up by key stakeholders

The eSurvey looked to provide data on these core areas, collected in a stable manner to allow for sound comparisons over time and to help widely understand the context in which Pearson College London operates.

The Brief

Pearson College London were launching a brand new suite of degrees and wanted a robust research project to lay the foundations of their communications strategy. We conducted a full review of the brand architecture behind the Flex, Classic and International degree models – ensuring that they had optimum branding and positioning in place to reach potential applicants.

The Brief

Pearson in 2009 entered the English Language Testing market with the launch of PTE Academic, a test aimed at modernising the approach to delivery and assessment taken in this market


The PTE Academic team was keen to create a targeted strategy for marketing the tests directly to the test taker. The research aimed to understand the test taker journey in choosing an English test, to identify factors influencing the choice of test, and uncovering which specific features of the PTE test resonated most strongly with test takers. Understanding the profile, motivations and challenges faced by those studying or moving abroad and needing an English test to secure their visas, added to the context in promoting the tests to these groups.

The Brief

Our client, a leading publisher, was considering changing their brand name. Since previous qualitative research had shown that customers have emotional associations with the publisher’s branding, our client was looking for further robust quantitative research to support a business case on whether their branding should be changed, as well as information on factors driving their customers’ purchasing decisions.

The Brief

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) were looking to develop their summer school offer.
QMUL asked Shift Learning to conduct research to scope the market for summer school programmes, with a view to identifying the right settings for a successful summer school offer. The research would also provide a guide for the subsequent marketing of the programmes to the identified target audiences, identifying which marketing channels and messaging are appropriate for different audience segments.

The Brief

Radiology and Oncology Congresses (ROC) are a registered charity responsible for organising two radiology-based Congresses. The charity is made up of representatives from the British Institute of Radiology, the Society and College of Radiographers and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. Over the past few years there have been significant changes in the healthcare environment which have reduced the flexibility for healthcare professionals to gain funding and study leave to attend medical Congresses.
ROC commissioned Shift Learning to analyse how medical Congresses across the sector were handling this challenge and to investigate the priorities of their Congresses’ existing and potential audiences.

The Brief

SOAS are considering the development of new degree programmes in Liberal Arts and World Philosophies. They asked Shift Learning to test the concepts through an eSurvey aimed at students currently studying arts and humanities subjects at Year 13 and undergraduate levels.

The Brief

SOAS, University of London commissioned this research in order to gain an understanding of motivations and behaviours around summer school attendance in the UK and overseas. They were also interested in gaining a picture of the level of interest in attending summer schools internationally and the approaches and attitudes of institutions in the EU and the US to their own students’ attendance at summer schools.

The Brief

A UK arts university was looking into possible new areas of opportunity for future qualifications, with a view to increasing overall applications to their courses. In addition, the university wanted to investigate trends around awareness of their brand and uncover the ways in which prospective arts students found out about courses, so they could effectively channel their marketing to increase brand awareness and the number of applicants to their courses.

The Brief

This university’s estates team required a research project which incorporated opinions from a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that their decisions have a positive impact on the student experience, enhance the overall brand and are aligned with changing requirements of academics, staff and students.
Shift Learning gathered deep insights into experiences of the current environment to inform future development decision on the university’s estates and infrastructure.

The Brief

A UK university wanted to extend their course provision to include undergraduate programmes in front-of-stage areas such as Dance and Acting. Our research aimed to explore the decision-making processes of potential students when selecting a degree, before recommending the optimum course structures and brand positioning to meet their needs.

The Brief

The University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences asked Shift Learning to help them explore potential interest in two new multidisciplinary degrees. Our integrated approach allowed us to test the brand names and content of both proposed courses with high-achieving potential students whilst gauging their interest in studying on the programmes.

The Brief

As part of a major strategic project to deliver a medium-to-long-term vision of postgraduate study, UAL needed to gain opinions and insights from a broad spectrum of target audiences. Shift Learning’s research laid vital foundations to support the enhancement and development of postgraduate study across the university.

The Brief

UAL were keen to gain insight into students’ perceptions of key satisfaction measures within the National Student Survey (NSS) which the university had identified as most in need of improvement. The research set out to explore students’ understanding of 7 key National Student Survey statements, in order to understand what elements drive student satisfaction within each of these areas. Shift Learning aimed to identify and unpack these factors in order to determine their relative weight and contribution to student satisfaction, and provide actionable recommendations accordingly.

The Brief

As part of a drive to achieve their 2020 vision, UWE called upon Shift Learning’s expertise to conduct a rigorous environmental analysis. We conducted a macro and micro study, bringing together key information in a usable report that would feed into a 3-year strategic marketing plan.

The Brief

As increasing numbers of students complete the majority of their education searches online, university websites have become a crucial communication to reach prospective students and their parents.
UWE asked Shift Learning to conduct comprehensive user testing of their website, developing a set of evidence-based recommendations to form the basis of a coherent strategy for future development.

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