Glasgow Caledonian University

Let the students do the talking


Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is a place that takes purpose seriously.

Their motto? 'The University for The Common Good'. Their strategy? Built around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Their priorities? Getting behind climate marches, local vaccine drives, and nurse training programmes in remote parts of the world.

But GCU had a problem. The ‘Common Good’ beating heart of the University barely registered a nod with students looking from the outside in. They tended to view GCU as affordable and conveniently located – but not as a place where they could realise their dream of making a difference.

Our challenge was to change that narrative – to connect the next generation of students with this long-standing purpose, and in doing so, boost the number of undergraduate students making GCU their home.

Talking about my generation

In order to shift the perception of GCU, and supercharge their upcoming recruitment campaign, we knew something bold was needed. Our research had identified that everyone had their own notion of what For The Common Good meant, and many struggled to connect with how this idea was being presented.

The answer was to turn the tables – to shine a spotlight on the students, not the university; to appeal to their innate sense of individuality and desire to change the world. We needed to channel the power of recruitment campaigns that already did this well (think Armed Forces ad campaigns). And to do that, we needed to find some students to be our poster girls and boys. With the Principal and wider leadership on board, we initiated a university-wide recruitment drive to find our ‘Common Good’ students. The truth was we weren’t too sure what we would find, but what we did find blew us away: a group of students with remarkable qualities, and memorable stories.

Between them they had founded a charity for the city’s homeless, repaired and driven ambulances to Ukraine, launched a mental health awareness campaign on TikTok, organised LGBTQ+ marches for students, and established a literacy programme for disadvantaged children. In short, they were living out the promise of For The Common Good.

An uncommon approach

In meeting these students, and hearing their stories, there was something striking and uncommon about each of them. Uncommon bravery, uncommon belief, uncommon resilience, uncommon effort. The idea stuck, and the campaign was born:
Uncommon People for The Common Good.

Not only did this capture the spirit of these remarkable students (13 were selected from a short-list of over 40). It allowed us to directly link their stories to 'The Common Good' and bring the university’s purpose to life in a way which few recruitment campaigns have managed to do.

Designers, copywriters, videographers, sound engineers, and photographers were all brought in to capture these students’ stories and present them to the world – initially in the form of a recruitment campaign for Clearing.

The marketing team at GCU backed our judgement and took the decision not only to let these students be heard, but to amplify their voice. Billboards, buses, train stations, bus stations, roadside posters, newspaper adverts (even music festival screens): during July and August of 2022 it was hard to walk down a street in Glasgow without seeing the faces of our student heroes.

The numbers tell the story

As a result of our campaign, GCU was more visible in the city of Glasgow than it had ever been before. What’s more, the campaign drove a surge in website visits, calls and, ultimately, student applications – giving the university a record intake for the Clearing window.

GCU has a bold vision to climb the league tables - for both impact and overall rankings. 'Uncommon People for the Common Good' was the lightning rod the University needed to begin shifting perception of the brand and persuade more young people that if they have an uncommon desire to do some good in the world, this is the University for them.

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said & done truly captured the essence of the University with this campaign, which has been so well received by both the university community and prospective students. This campaign has had a significant impact in helping the University tell its story and build its reputation both domestically and internationally.

Professor James Miller
Deputy Vice-Chancellor