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How to attract and retain top students

Bus stop advert for Walbottle Campus

Increases to tuition fees represent one of the greatest changes in higher education over many decades. Now averaging out at around £9,000 per year for most institutions, the increase in the cost of attending university had already led to a 17% decline in undergraduates.

The cost to students is potentially set to rise further after the government proposed that universities should be able to increase fees if they can show they are delivering high-quality teaching. Advertising will undoubtedly play an increasing part in attracting top students in this more competitive environment, but also in demonstrating the value of paying additional fees. It could also help towards slowing the decline of university attendance.

Clear Channel works across the education sector, with a variety of schools, colleges and universities. We deliver Out of Home advertising campaigns that help universities showcase themselves and attract the best students.

Seeking out your ideal student

A major difference between our school and university clients is that while schools must draw students from a very targeted geographical area, university students may travel from anywhere in the country. This might make Out of Home advertising seem like an overwhelming choice. Where do you begin?

The fact is that Out of Home advertising is one of the most targeted channels out there. Once a university has profiled a particular target student, we can choose specific sites to match – and even tailor the timing of a campaign to hit when most potential students will see it. If a university wants to attract more males or females to a particular course, or reach out to students who have a passion for cars, or speak to sports enthusiasts, we can target their advertising accordingly. This tailoring is incredibly powerful.

Creating inspirational Open Days

Since choosing which university to attend is a huge life decision, the vast majority of students will attend an Open Day before making their final decision. That’s why the key call to action of many universities’ Out of Home campaigns is Open Day attendance.

Outdoor advertising is one of the best ways of fueling excitement for an open day, because it can be really big and bold. Flagship university buildings or facilities can be showcased spectacularly well on digital billboards, for example. In turn, this drives intrigue and excitement around the physical characteristics of a university – and the motivation to visit in person.

Digital billboards can also feature interactive calls to action, driving audiences to immediately register for a place on an open day, for example. This is very fast and very trackable – fantastic for recording the ROI of a particular campaign.

Digital innovation

Drawing many of these ideas together is Clear Channel’s super-premium Out of Home brand, Storm. This has been used to powerful effect by the University of Lincoln, who booked our Storm Birmingham and digital mall products to drive visitors to a September open day. These youth centric areas allowed for precise targeting on Lincoln’s ideal audience – and the university saw a direct correlation in enquiries and visitor numbers. So much so that they immediately booked for future open days too.

Because Storm is a super-premium large format digital product, it’s sites are specifically chosen as stunningly beautiful structures and buildings. As such, an Out of Home campaign centred on them is attention-grabbing, impactful and exciting.


  • Plan, plan and plan some more – with UCAS deadlines and academic calendars being the same throughout the country, universities and colleges are competing on the same timescales.
  • Embrace the flexibility of digital, which can add extra value to a traditional Out of Home campaign by offering extra coverage during peak traffic times.
  • While value for money for students is key, this can be demonstrated in numerous different ways, from graduate career prospects to sporting facilities – so don’t be afraid to run a diverse campaign.
  • Ask direct applicants (for example postgraduates) where they heard about you, as a useful way of tracking ROI.

Interested in learning more about how Out of Home advertising could help your college or university get ahead? Contact us Clear Channel today.

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