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ampersand research market research nottingham qualitative & quantitative
ampersand research market research nottingham qualitative & quantitative

Case study: How we maximised a client’s limited budget

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

The client - a global leader in education

A top 20 university, renowned for world leading research and a member of the Russell Group of universities.

The brief - explore why a Masters course attracts a specific student cohort

Our client runs a successful science-based Postgraduate programme where the majority of students are female.

Desk research showed this weighting towards females is typical of the market for these types of programmes, the split being anywhere between 66% to 85% in favour of females.

ampersand research was commissioned to help understand what is driving more females than males to study these courses and what the client could do to support gender balance in these programmes to reflect their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and supporting student recruitment.

As well as exploring at students’ academic and personal journeys to the point of enrolment, ampersand research was also tasked with understanding the positioning of the course within academia and society as a whole, and the role and influence of Higher Education marketing and communications.

The challenge - one that will resonate with most agencies…budget*

Those with experience of the market research sector know qualitative research (which is the approach the project needed to fully understand the topic and obtain rich descriptive data) tends to be time consuming and resource heavy which is reflected in the cost for this type of methodology.

So, we were faced with a dilemma. Turn down a project that aligned really well with our experience, skills set, and where we knew we could add significant value. Or propose an extremely light touch research programme which would probably not be sufficient to give the organisation the required level of understanding of the topic area and surrounding issues.

So, what did we do?

None of the above!

Instead, we thought differently about the project. I would love to say we thought creatively about the problem but in all honestly, we thought practically to find a solution. We looked at where our time and skills were best spent and where the client could get involved and assist in the research process. We designed our approach to focus the budget being used for “research time” with the client picking up the “organisation time”. Our practical thinking resulted in a proposal with over 3 times as many interviews being conducted than if we had taken on full-service responsibilities.

The approach - online qualitative depth interviews

The key to any research is ensuring the right people take part in the research. And on this occasion, we were in the great position whereby the client had details of the target audience – those who had enquired / applied for the master’s programme in question – so could recruit participants for the study. In addition, they were happy to be involved and take on the responsibility of scheduling interviews, sending out links to the online platform, making reminder calls and paying incentives after the session.

Aware this was their first time in the world of recruiting participants for research we provided a step-by-step guide to recruitment with top tips and relevant information to maximise engagement, interest and buy in from the target audience. We advised on various other logistics involved in the pre-interview stages from appropriate incentives to the best days and times to schedule interviews to the importance of reminder calls to GDPR.

Our time was then free to design a discussion to moderate the interviews – the research time!

Client’s feedback - 10/10 client satisfaction

And we were delighted to hear our research is being used by others in the organisation with findings being shared with other stakeholders who are trying to address similar issues.

Our feedback - a fantastic way to maximise budget

Although we had experience of working with clients to assist in the recruitment stage – providing contact details etc, we had never formally proposed they get involved to the extent they did on this project.

Which begs the question – would we do it again?

The answer is a clear


In fact, we are working on a project that involves the client not only being responsible for the recruitment and incentives but provision of a venue as well.

We know this approach is not suitable for all projects, and in no way do we want to burden our fabulous clients, but any possible assistance with administrative tasks can make a difference to what we can achieve, especially when budgets are tight.

If you are interested in finding out more about this approach to qualitative research, our experience in the education sector, our proprietary research about prospective students’ decision making process of going to university, or just a chat about research, then please do get in touch!

Either drop us an email or give us a call on 0115 993 2343

ampersand research

always and in all ways researching

* Apologies but we can’t disclose the exact figure. However, we are not research divas who won’t get out of bed for anything less than £10k! Over the past 8 years we have worked on budgets from £1,000 (moderation only services) to £50,000+ (full service qualitative and quantitative projects).

Photo credits:

Female scientist picture: Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash


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