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Historical document

Establishment of horticultural science scholarships at the University of Sydney (HG06025)

Key research provider: The University of Sydney
Publication date: May, 2012

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

At the time, the number of trained people leaving University for the horticultural sector was declining with enrolments in Horticultural Science degrees around Australia declining by 50 per cent between 1998 and 2002. This project aimed to counter that trend by providing entry-level scholarships and by a promotional campaign that focused on the "good news" stories of the industry. The market research that was done by the faculty identified that the website was the most important information portal for prospective students. The website needed an upgrade to meet the expectations of Gen Y who liked specific text and easy navigation.

Attracting a young audience into the horticulture/agricultural sector remained a challenge. This was a global trend influenced by many large-scale factors such as educational investment, policy, media and the employment market for graduates. The project had added to the market intelligence on student aspirations and desires. In particular it had assisted understanding of appropriate and appealing language and communication methods for the target audience. Together with these factors, scholarships remained an important and attractive motivator to study.

Key Outcomes:

  • Creation of scholarships to attract and support students
  • Market research, identified key elements including stakeholder interest, aspiration, motivations to study, cooperate perception and key messages.
  • Website project, addresses the information, navigation, style and language used on the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment website.
  • Measurement of website 

The market research funded by this project showed that electronic communication was the preferred mode of message delivery amongst young audiences. Furthermore, 95 per cent of enrolled students in the Faculty wanted to be kept informed about updates and events through electronic communication. Metrics of the Faculty website showed considerable spikes during times of entry and enrolment, indicating that future and current students all used the website as a “one stop shop” for information.

It was also important to consider that websites were often the most cost effective mode of communication and marketing. In comparison to print or advertising placement, websites offer value for money, with around $100 per 1000 webpage views. They were also easy to maintain and provided ongoing metrics capabilities. The redevelopment of the website was underpinned by a larger marketing strategy aimed at updating the Faculty’s image and connecting with potential new students. An online presence was a cornerstone of this strategy.

An expansion of the online experience through the use of social media would be an area for future research. Social media gained prominence during the period of this project but was not included specifically in this study.

With regard to scholarships, a survey of scholarship offerings across the sector and beyond was highly recommended. Also highly recommended was the development of an online one-stop shop collating scholarships in an easy place for applicants to access information and apply.

The main recommendations were:

  • An online presence was a necessity.
  • Initial financial and time investment offers considerable benefits when done strategically.
  • Market research offers beneficial insights into key markets and communication methods.
  • Non topic-specific scholarships either targeted at high achieving students or those addressing financial disadvantage attract the most applicants.

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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of The University of Sydney.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2012. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).