What’s in a name? – marketing a university course

Posted on December 15, 2009


One of the discussions we have within our group at the moment is what should we name one of our courses. Historically it has been named Bachelor of Coaching Science, but the recent suggestion has been to rename it to Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science (I will refer to that generally as ESS). Importantly, there is no argument that we cant offer different streams (or majors) within the course, but just rather what is the most effective use of the name in terms of marketing.

The change in name has been suggested to come into line with the growing industry base within the Exercise Sciences, highlighted by the growing strength of the national governing body, Australian Association of Exercise and Sports Science (interesting about to re-brand itself as Exercise and Sport Science Australia). The word “Coach” in the title however presents a point of difference, and arguably a marketing angle to attract a specific niche.

Unfortunately like most discussions of this nature, noone is supported by any particular strong data to support either side of the argument. I admittedly sit on the Exercise Science side, no doubt partly due to my background in that area. But my arguments include the following:

  • coaching is not a realistic career option (there are very few paid coaching jobs. The same may be argued for ESS but Exercise Science in Australia (thanks to the increasingly influential governing body) is widely recognised as a broad area in which students can go on to many career options. I’m less convinced that the same perception exists for Coaching. Ultimately will mother’s argue, why are you doing coaching, what paid job are you going to get out of that?)
  • it is generally accepted that coaches can come from the Exercise and Sport Sciences, but less so the other way.
  • ESS courses are common pathways for many other professions (in particular physiotherapy) and so transferring to post graduate courses tends to be much easier from ESSs.
  • the more specific and viable career pathway of Exercise Physiology leads directly on from the ESS courses recognised around Australia.
  • I personally believe the term “Exercise Science” is the most generic term which can encompass Sport Science, Coaching and many other related concepts.
  • historically it is obvious that even the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), across the road from us, has preferred candidates for many of its placements from other institutions (a trend that is changing now)
  • historically I know of quite a few students who have left Canberra to study a similar course somewhere else.

Admittedly these last few points are changing, in part due to many of the positive changes occuring at UCNISS, and may not reflect anything about the name per se. But we will no doubt still argue about the name for some time to come. I would be interested to know what others think. There is a poll below.

Ideally we should collect data to find out what is the most effective, but the difficulty is in how we do this. The suggestion that we ask our enrolled suggestions is immediately biased because they have already chosen a course based on the name “Coaching Science”. We are unique in that way in Australia but we are also a relatively small program compared to the 27-odd other institutions in Australia that offer similar courses.

Of course there is another option, and that is just that we name two different courses that students can take, with differences between the courses being relatively minor and thus not adding an extra drain on resources (i.e. teaching staff hours).

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