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!

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  1. I’m actually very interested to see how well WorldSkills does in terms of column inches. Given the fact that shows that copy its format are all over our telly (masterchef, great british bake off, those things on bbc3 with george lamb) you’d think there would be a big interest (and with more four showing the world sheepdog trials, clearly *anything* can get on telly), but i’m not aware of any channel doing in-depth coverage so far… I fear Team GB not having a competitor in the cooking or restaurant service categories might limit its appeal to broadcasters…

  2. Hundreds of Colleges take part in Colleges Week every year – they do so voluntarily and as part of their annual PR plans. To suggest otherwise and to think that Colleges can’t take part in a national PR campaign without disrupting lessons or breaking into other PR budgets is extremely patronising to the PR and marketing professionals in Colleges.

    Every year Colleges take part in the week’s planning and development and make sure this is a national campaign that serves their purpose. Over 70 Colleges were involved in the pre-week planning in 2011 – and the key aims of the week are based on robust, strong research. As for journalists…Sarah Montague of the Today programme and Chris Cook at the FT certainly didn’t express any problems with Colleges Week when they interviewed us on the subject this week, nor have the 30 radio stations who are talking to us this morning. Nor has FE Week, for that matter.

    As for being costly…Colleges Week 2011 doesn’t cost Colleges nationally or individually a penny. Nor will the analysis discount the work of Colleges in PR terms – they are absolutely central to its success.