Please, don’t get me started on Colleges Week. Oh, go on then

Please, don’t get me started on Colleges Week. Oh, go on then

I hate Colleges Week. Colleges hate Colleges Week. Journalists hate Colleges Week.

Colleges Week (26 September to 2 October) interrupts the genuinely good stuff that colleges do. It’s a constipated, false celebration, where some group of individuals as well as the AoC and 157 Group and goodness knows who else decides to tell colleges what they will be celebrating, what to push, what to say in their press releases and generally take up the valuable time of lecturers, support staff, employers and learners.

The bold statement on the Colleges Week website is particularly grating, it says: “Colleges Week 2011 has one clear aim – to help YOUR college connect with the communities it serves and reach out to unfamiliar or new audiences, boosting your profile to promote the benefits of college education.”

Colleges don’t get funding for Colleges Week. How in a professional, serious marketplace can Colleges Week exist?”

So, for just one week a year YOUR college needs help connecting with its community. What does it do the rest of the year? Does it ignore its community? Does it ignore funding streams, take enrolment lightly and wave away its student targets?

Profile boosting – if your college’s profile needs boosting, why not have a word with your marketing department and ensure you profile is boosted all year round, instead of just one week in the autumn term?

The Colleges Week PR blurb explains that this year ‘Colleges Week is being held in the run up to WorldSkills London 2011 to deliver maximum impact’. Right, so, it won’t be overshadowed then, by skilled learners displaying world-class talent and exciting competitiveness in an international setting? Or by the massive marketing spend that the WorldSkills team have had to throw about, ensuring that media coverage will be the best skills coverage that money can buy?

Colleges don’t get funding for Colleges Week. How in a professional, serious marketplace can Colleges Week exist?

Perhaps we should have Courts Week. We could get legal firms to take a week out of their year to encourage more litigation, they could have limited BOGOF offers like… buy one industrial tribunal get another free!

Colleges should be using their marketing plans to inform their business planning and building properly costed operational plans to help meet their targets, service the needs of their communities and grow their business. This sort of ad hoc celebration with dictated themes is costly, and the return on investment is arguably poor.

The PR company ‘supporting’ the initiative will no doubt submit a hefty report, stating column inches gained, air time achieved and yadda yadda yadda, and tell us succinctly how very successful they’ve been using some kind of industry standard metrics.

But what they won’t tell us is how much valuable PR colleges get themselves anyway, despite this false celebration, or how much additional money colleges have had to fork out because of it. The won’t tell us how many college ‘man’ hours have been taken up, and, how many lessons or training sessions have been disrupted to prove that Colleges Week is worthwhile and is a glorious success.

I’m not a fan of VQ Day either, but compared to Colleges Week it’s a welcome blessing!