student life

Do university prospectuses mislead students?

A recent article on the Guardian’s website presented the idea that university prospectuses are just another form of consumerism and propaganda.

A recent article on the Guardian’s website presented the idea that university prospectuses are just another form of consumerism and propaganda. One of the comments underneath the article said “I challenge you to look through British prospectuses and find a picture where it’s raining.”

I understand what this reader was implying, but surely universities wouldn’t want to present themselves in such a negative light? The UK is a rainy place, no prospective student wants their dreams shattered by buildings blurred by rainfall?

Helping me decide

Universities have one shot at persuading us sixth form students to choose them. That one shot is the little book they use to promote the University, its accommodation, location and courses. I start University in September and I remember this time last year when I had a pile of around 40 prospectuses to get through. My decision wasn’t just based on its location or the prestige of its journalism course but also whether or not I found the prospectus appealing.

When thinking about applying to university, I did have a browse through the websites, but I didn’t rely on them as much. My aim was to have a look through the actual prospectuses designed for myself and others hoping to start in September 2014. I absolutely loved the idea of going to a university in London.

When the prospectuses arrived, I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t reach the standards of others which had arrived. I judge a prospectus by its cover—if it isn’t to my expectations, then it completely changes my opinion of that University.

I’m one of those people who choose a university for its professional-looking prospectus – I like smart, sophisticated styles, none of this whole ‘smiling students’ approach. The funny thing is that I would never have thought about relocating to Sheffield to go to university there.  I live in the South of England where everyone seems to discriminate against the North and its ‘smoky’ stereotypes. I still ordered one of their prospectuses as I wanted to get one from everywhere that offered my course.

Following my instinct

My University of Sheffield prospectus was one of the first ones to arrive. It was strange. The moment it came, I knew it was the place I wanted to go, before even knowing how good their Journalism course was or whether I would like the University. As it turns out, I did, and now I’m counting down the days to see if I got the grades to get start there in September.

Personally, I believe that University prospectuses do not intend to mislead students. They provide prospective students with everything that they’re after. We all know about the typical British weather, so surely showing pictures of the University in the treasured sunshine that we don’t see as much of as we’d like to, would be a pleasant sight for us.

If I was to receive a prospectus where all the pictures were taken in the dull rainy days, I would question why a university would choose to risk attracting students. They just want us to see how beautiful their campus is when the sun is out! This especially helps for international students, coming for a full-time course, or maybe for a study abroad programme. They want to get the best of British education, meaning a location which is bound to bring some great memories. 

What do you think of the prospectus? Did it have a role in what university you chose? Have your say in the comments section below.