Course Portfolio Analysis and Strategy

There are two critical variables that explain the success of a university in student markets - one is reputation, the second is having a suite of courses that is appealing to a potential applicant. 

The Knowledge Partnership is the only agency to specialise in the field of portfolio optimisation and development. Our unique blend of secondary data sets, primary insights, consultancy knowledge and experienced staff set us apart.

For enquiries, to discuss a brief, or to book a FREE portfolio workshop with the senior leadership team at your institution, call Adam Cresswell in the Leeds office on +44 020 3963 4681 or email

Dave Roberts speaking at TKP's 2019 Market Insight Conference

Independent, inclusive and evidence based

Our approach helps to pave the way for change, whether this means explaining the rationale for retiring courses or supporting the case for investment in new or adapted programmes.

  • Our analysis is tailored to each project so as to be specific to the questions asked by each client. We build relationships with our project partners to understand the underlying issues and reasons behind the need for a review, allowing us to make recommendations that are relevant and more likely to be implemented.
  • We interview those responsible for managing suites of courses such as deans, and heads of schools or subjects, making the project inclusive and visible on campus while ensuring we capture valuable insights, ideas and context.
  • Using quantitative evidence, supported by judgement based on experience, we evaluate existing programme performance and identify opportunity gaps.
  • We deliver executive reports supported by personalised debriefing sessions for senior teams that summarise the evidence and make both strategic and very specific recommendations. However, there will be something for everyone from Deans to Programme Leaders, Marketing to International Recruitment, and we share the detail of our analysis in technical, subject-based reports.
  • We provide an experienced and independent voice for change and improvement which will add weight to investment cases.

Your key questions answered

We typically work with a dean, deputy vice chancellor (academic) or senior Planning staff to deliver a thorough analysis of the portfolio and the market to address these typical questions:

  • How does the performance of our existing courses benchmark against the sector, our peers and competitors?
  • What are the issues with our programme design - how can we be more distinctive and appealing?
  • How well are our courses marketed? Do we have strong and appropriate USPs that are attractive to potential students?
  • Are there extensions to our current portfolio which will increase appeal with new types of students? This could be new, related programmes, or different modes of study etc.
  • Are we running courses with low current and future appeal that we should retire, or could simple changes (title, broad content etc) improve their attractiveness to potential students?
  • Which new subject fields are relevant to our institution given our ethos, brand, location and existing capacity?
  • Can we increase the efficiency of our portfolio through pathways and shared modules without compromising the student experience?

Three key ingredients


We have created tools and methods derived from both published literature and sector specific research.

Course analysis uses keyword searches of course titles in HESA student record data, and is thoroughly cleaned to ensure all relevant comparisons are used.

The following tools may be used to ensure a consistent approach and assure quality.

Portfolio Efficiency measures the overall effectiveness of your faculty/institution against the market and competitors.

Competitor Intensity highlights subjects with a greater/lesser number of active competitors, showing opportunities for leadership.

Relative Market Position puts your cohort sizes by subject against a market average, showing current strengths and weaknesses.


We have built a unique range of data sets to power our analyses. Individually, each data set is useful, but together they provide a powerful picture of each course reviewed.

An annually updated database of all UK university full-time and distance learning courses, with fees, league table positions and entry requirements.

This includes all course closures, re-titles and additions to the portfolio at all UK universities.

A comprehensive, annually updated database of enrolments and student profiles at individual and course level.

BTEC, GCSE, A-level and UCAS student trend data.

Graduate employability data.

Insight from previous TKP research projects on BAME, EU, parents and more.

International student subject preferences.


We have been undertaking portfolio reviews since 2007.

Our methodologies and processes have been constantly reviewed and improved in order to provide maximum value for our clients.

As the consultancy behind the HEFCE i-MAP project in 2011, we analysed thousands of courses over many years and distilled from this the factors that shape success.

We conduct our own internal research and analysis to better understand student choice and the motivations of different groups of applicants.

Our clients take our advice and achieve market success, often attracting more students to fewer courses.

Many of our commissions for faculty reviews come from referrals from other deans in the same university.

For enquiries, to discuss a brief, or to book a FREE portfolio workshop with the senior leadership team at your institution, call Adam Cresswell in the Leeds office on +44 020 3963 4681 or email

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