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Andrew Crisp jointly owns CarringtonCrisp, a specialist consulting firm in higher education.

Founded in 2003, CarringtonCrisp works with universities and business schools to offer imaginative approaches to their ever-changing world, using data and creativity to drive analysis, insight and practical solutions.

1. Can you give us a bit of your “back story”? What led you to your current career path?

CarringtonCrisp began 20 years ago, shortly after I met Mary Lou Carrington who had led marketing at Cass Business School (now Bayes).  We worked on opposite sides of the table at the University of Wolverhampton Business School, which through their Dean at the time, led us to the Association of Business Schools.  We spoke at a webinar they ran on marketing issues, which in turn led to our first group market research study and setting up the business.

2. Can you share the most interesting story you have experienced in your current role? What were the most valuable takeaways?

There are so many.  I’ve been lucky to visit and work with business schools from Auckland to Helsinki and from Shanghai to Miami.  Perhaps the most interesting was our work for the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.  I visited the school twice at their beautiful campus in botanical gardens leading down to the Mediterranean.  It’s an extraordinary university given what it has achieved in the circumstances it faces, and if nothing else, it teaches you to expect the unexpected.

3. Differentiation seems to be a big challenge for business schools at the moment. How should they approach it?

Don’t be daunted.  The idea that a school can’t differentiate itself from competitors is nonsense.  Of course, many schools will offer similar programmes in similar ways and at similar prices, but that’s a given; these are the hygiene factors every school needs. 

The starting point is listening.  Listen to your students, staff, alumni and all of your other stakeholders.  Discover why they chose you, what they think of you today and what they tell others about you.  Knowing who you are is key to becoming who you want to be.

4. What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give to business school communicators now?

First, know your market. CarringtonCrisp is built on data insights, helping schools see trends in the marketplace, so make sure you have the data to ensure you can be as effective as possible.

Second, think brand.  Well-thought-through and consistently communicated brands can elevate a business school amongst its global and local competitors.  Supported with great marketing, the school brand will deliver enormous value in building awareness and consideration of an institution.

Third, be imaginative.  Higher education and the world it operates in is changing rapidly.  Continuing to do the same things in the same way as you have always done is only going to result in diminishing returns.  Be creative, not just in design, but in every aspect of your work.

5. Are you working on any exciting new projects you want to discuss? How will they help business schools?

There are two projects.  We’ve just launched our new report on “The future of lifelong and executive education” sharing the views of nearly 10,000 learners and 1,100 employers in more than 30 countries.  Lifelong learning will transform study in years ahead with individuals on a journey of learning rather than seeing a degree as an end destination.

The second project is an extension of our branding research.  In 2022-23, we ran our first Brand Europe project that provided 15 European business schools with detailed insights on how their schools are perceived among prospective postgraduates across 40 countries.  

This autumn, the study will run again but will be extended to offer schools in the Americas and Asia the same powerful insights.