Sunday, June 4, 2017

Impact through empathy

One exception to the usual fluffy kitten approach to university marketing is the Australian Catholic University (ACU), with their "ACU I Impact through empathy" campaign. This depicts the ACU's graduates, in health and education, helping people. It still shows study in a positive light, but is much more serious and sober than some of the sillier advertisements of other Australian universities. One point ACU glosses over is its origins in religious education: although the Vatican is briefly shown.

One of the more entertaining parts of higher education are the advertisements universities use to attract students. However, students have high rates of mental health problems. Depicting study as something fun, social, and easy, with instructors always to hand, may contribute to the problem.

University study is not fun, easy or pleasant: it is hard work, frustrating and lonely. Instructors cannot be as available, or helpful, as students would wish, due to resource constraints and the need for students to learn though their own efforts. As a result students may think there is something wrong with them.

ACU's approach is not just a matter of marketing. When studying education I made use of ACU's Canberra campus library and sat in on some graduate student sessions (one day I accidentally also sat in on an undergraduate teacher training class). There is a sense of caring and sharing which pervades the campus and the approach of the staff, different from a typical university. This may be just a matter of size, with a small campus able to be more personal, or it may be due to the caring disciplines the institution teaches.

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