The potential and barriers to the use of geographical information systems for marketing applications in higher educational institutions

Paul Read*, Gary Higgs, George Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Purpose - To highlight the potential (as well as perceived barriers) to the wider use of GIS in educational marketing. Design/methodology/approach - Five case studies were conducted in order to identify the GIS capabilities that would be required by a typical educational institution. Using the knowledge gained from these case studies, a prototype "admissions GIS" based around a proprietary GIS package was developed. Findings - Spatial approaches based around GIS should provide numerous benefits in educational marketing concerning, for example, the mapping and analysis of participation rates in relation to a variety of recruitment campaigns and widening participation strategies, in detecting changes in enrolment patterns and in the profiling of local areas in order to develop a range of courses designed to appeal to the customer segments therein. Research limitations/implications - The paper has identified important barriers that will need to be overcome before such tools become more widely used in the higher education sector. The study has also highlighted concerns regarding the accuracy of particular data sets that became evident as the data were analysed. The findings from GIS-based investigations could provide an important starting-point for more qualitatively based follow-up studies that may help explain the revealed patterns. Practical implications - Widening access, student profiling, local area profiling and the availability of increasing amounts of geographically- referenced data are all increasing the use of GIS, whose capabilities in mapping and geodemographics have led many to see it as an aid to student recruitment and retention in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. Originality/value - There have been relatively few published studies of the potential of GIS, in conjunction with university administrative records and geodemographic techniques, in educational marketing. This study adds to this body of literature to demonstrate the current state of play and the perceived barriers to wider implementation and will be of particular relevance to those involved in marketing courses in higher education establishments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)30-42
    Number of pages13
    JournalMarketing Intelligence and Planning
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • Geographic information systems
    • Higher education
    • Marketing


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