Thursday, 1 March 2007

"MSc Economics": Google listings and sponsored advertising

As an academic with an interest in the economics of China and how Chinese students interact with overseas economics departments and Business Schools, it is evident that in the few years Chinese students have constituted a large and, until recently, growing percentage of all postgraduate students.

The implication therefore is that UK departments are increasingly financially dependent on the fees charged to Chinese students.

In earlier posts I have provided a ranking of UK Universities and provided a series of links for any overseas students thinking of studying economics at a UK University and a quick comparison of costs (the side bar of this blog also contains a large amount of information).

Which UK University to study in? "Academic Ranking of World Universities"
"MSc Economics": How much does it cost?
Studying "Economics in the UK": General Links

Obviously, by concentrating on only those UK Universities in the TOP 100 of the world Universities (plus a couple of notable others) I am emphasising institutional quality as well as subject specific quality.

Out of curiosity, in this post I will compare the top 100 ranking to the google lisiting when the search is for "MSc Economics". At the moment such a search throws up different University specific websites. On the right hand side of google however there is a list of courses that are paid for per click by the University. The higher up the list a course appears the greater the cost to each University.

In the grand scheme of things, at a cost of less that $1 a click, such advertising only needs to attract a couple of students (at current margins) to be highly profitable. However, an examination of advertising trends may also provide a good indication of which Universities are keen to attract overseas students. This may mean that these Universities are more Overseas-friendly or that they are simply more technically minded.

When the search is for: MSc Economics or Masters Economics or Postgraduate Economics the following UK Universities have paid for links:

1. Lancaster University Management School (advertising an MSc in International Business so not directly relevant).
2. University of Southampton
3. University of Birmingham
4. University of Exeter

What is interesting is that these searches come up with mainly UK and some EU institutions but little for the US (as a result of the structure of their degrees). All four of these Universities run excellent courses - apart from Birmingham none of them appear in the top 100 ranking but are excellent economics departments and highly regarded in the UK.

It is perhaps surprising that not more Universities use this route to advertise their courses. Reasons why they may not include:
1. Overseas student use different search engines or foreign language search engines.
2. They use the British Council website as a gateway (see sidebar links).
3. There is an inherent mistrust of sponsored links in google.
4. Universities tend to be relatively slow at embracing new technologies
5. Universities feel that they do not need to attract additional students my such methods.

When the main google search results are considered the Universities appearing on the front page are:

1. University of Warwick Economics Department
2. University of Warwick Business School
3. London School of Economics
4. University of Southampton
5. University of East Anglia

6. University of Exeter

These results suggest that the sponsored link route has helped Exeter and Southampton appear higher in the standard google search results. Warwick do well to appear twice and are in my listings in the sidebar with the LSE.

We will keep a check on developments in this area. The economics of google advertising are interesting in their own right. I suspect more Universities should consider such a move.

The next question we will examine is why, even though China is growing rapidly and the Chinese middle class is becoming larger, that Chinese student numbers appear to have plateaued or even begun to fall.

The following posts may be of interest:
Econphd Ranking of "Economics departments"

Ten Reasons Why You Should Study in Britain

Studying "Economics in the UK": General Links

Which UK University to study in? "Academic Ranking of World Universities"

Studying in the UK: Cost of Accomodation

World University Rankings: Rankings and text

"UK University Ranking": large city effect

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