Location, location, location: does place provide the opportunity for differentiation for universities?

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The fiercely competitive HE market has led HEIs to invest significant resources in building a distinct identity. An HEI’s location forms an inherent part of its identity and the uniqueness of location offers an opportunity to differentiate. However there has been limited examination of how location is used by HEIs and little consideration of how location can provide an effective means of differentiation. Through the lens of place marketing, this exploratory paper provides insight into the way HEIs portray location and discusses whether location can offer a source of differentiation.

Using a content analysis of prospectuses and interviews with marketing decision makers, this paper contributes a deeper understanding of the way in which a place brand is constructed by a stakeholder. The study reveals that HEIs portray a location to simultaneously excite and reassure the student which ultimately leads to the commodification of location. As such, differentiation is not possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-250
Number of pages18
Journal Journal of Marketing for Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date17 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • location
  • Higher Education marketing
  • university
  • prospectus
  • place branding
  • content analysis


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