Exploring Transition into Postgraduate Study
: How Relationship Marketing Principles can be applied to support students

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Over the past twenty years, the number of students undertaking postgraduate taught (PGT) education in the UK has grown substantially, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) This is faster than the growth in the undergraduate (UG) sector over the same period (HESA, 2021).

    Postgraduates make a significant and growing contribution to the UK economy and to the HE sector specifically. The growth in PGT student numbers represents a positive scenario for universities, most of whom are actively pursuing ways to grow their revenue and differentiate their income streams (Robertson, 2010). Postgraduates’ ability to adjust to, and successfully engage with their studies is fundamental to their progression, achievement and satisfaction, all of which are important metrics for universities (Evans et al., 2018).

    Following a detailed review of the literature, this thesis explores key aspects of students’ PGT transition experience. It contributes to the theoretical body of research through the development of a conceptual model recommending appropriate relationship marketing strategies that HEIs can adopt to recruit, retain and support their PGT students through the transition process towards successful outcomes.

    Employing a qualitative research methodology using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with PGT students, this research was undertaken within a Birmingham-based Business School. The findings outlined the importance of utilising relationship marketing activities with transitioning PGT students by HEIs to:

    • Influence students’ notions of quality and trust through reputation, rankings, accreditation and endorsements.
    • Support students’ commitment and loyalty using special treatment benefits.
    • Establish early communications with students using CRM systems to develop a relationship at the applicant stage about the pedagogy and what to expect.
    • Build a rapport, a sense of belonging and a learning community.
    • Support academic and professional identity construction and satisfaction.
    • Co-create learning and provide excellent service quality, ensuring retention and satisfaction.
    • Encourage and support long term relationships with committed PGT students as alumni.
    Date of AwardJun 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorHelen Higson (Supervisor) & Anna Ackfeldt (Supervisor)


    • Postgraduate
    • Transition
    • Relationship Marketing
    • Higher Education

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