Comparing social media student chatter to national news coverage during the recent demonstrations

Student riots have been dominating the headlines recently, as students all over the country have been demonstrating over proposed rises to tuition fees. For example, at on 7 December, a story describes a Bristol student protest: “The biggest demonstration saw more than 2,000 students march in Bristol over plans to raise university tuition fees.”

Some universities have been dominating the headlines, while others have been making more waves on social networks. Comparing recent coverage of five universities: Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, shows that Nottingham grabbed more news headlines (33 per cent of stories mentioned Nottingham compared with 11 per cent mentioning Cardiff). When it comes to social media chatter, Manchester was the dominant name, being talked about twice as often as Cardiff.

University Share of Voice Comparison Chart

When news and social network coverage is combined, Nottingham beats Leeds and Bristol on overall share of voice.

News topics were often different from social media chatter. For instance, news coverage was mainly about raising the cap on fees and student demonstrations, while social media conversation was split between recruitment conversation (such as “What university are you going to?”) and tuition fees. Also student newspaper of the year nominations came through Twitter.

The recent focus on the expense of going to university may lessen the popularity of degrees. Tom Leatherbarrow, head of business to business at agency Willoughby PR, says he suspects the importance of having a degree is going to go into a relative decline from its current high of circa 50 per cent of the school-leaving population down to something like 35 to 40 per cent over the next ten years. This is not just because of tuition fees in his view, as he says: “There is an increasing belief among business that the possession of a degree does not necessarily mean the candidate has the right qualities. The chief executive of one of my clients in the financial services sector is actively looking to recruit from schools at after A Levels because of the poor quality of CVs coming across his desk from graduates. That potentially brings its own problems in terms of the maturity of candidate, but it does signal that business no longer believes that a degree is the starting point for interviews.”


PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse UK online media coverage of five UK universities, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, looking at volume and leading media topics. The research period was 1 November to 30 November 2010.

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