Milton Keynes is one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK, with a population forecast to reach 500,000 by 2050. Milton Keynes is now the largest urban area in the UK not to have its own university. Through the MK Futures 2050 process, Milton Keynes Council identified how a university focused on technology could significantly benefit the economy, as part of its vision to support future growth. In March 2018, Cranfield University was announced as the lead higher education provider for the new model university (MK:U).
Cranfield University needed to validate the business case that had been constructed for MK:U. This involved testing the appeal and sizing the demand for specific new undergraduate courses at MK:U and assessing the appeal of the MK:U proposition overall and how it compared with the competition. The research findings would help to inform whether or not MK:U would proceed.
TKP used a mixed-method approach to conduct the research. An online survey was administered to 1,299 prospective UG students achieving a mix of both traditional (aged 16-18 considering applying to study a BA/BSc degree) and non-traditional (aged 16-40 who do not have or are not considering studying for a BA/BSc degree but who are interested in gaining further qualifications) university applicants in order to assess the appeal of the suite of programmes being proposed, the differing modes of study, and the MK:U concept overall. Secondary research using multiple sources including HESA and ONS population data was also undertaken to help size the existing market for the MK:U offer. Using the outputs from the secondary and primary research a model was developed to predict the likely cohort size of MK:U from an optimistic, pessimistic and most likely viewpoint.
We were able to quantifiably determine the appeal of the MK:U proposition and to provide a more accurate estimate of the potential cohort size for MK:U, projected forward for ten years. Not only were we able to provide an assessment of the appeal of MK:U but the research identified issues that hadn’t been previously considered including managing a potential gender bias in favour of male students, the lack of brand equity in the Cranfield University brand for undergraduate students and additional subject areas that could be considered. Cranfield University is now taking forward our strategic recommendations and planning the next phase of MK:U.