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Education market research: an overview of 3 different methods

When conducting education market research, you can broadly categorise the different methods into:

  • Quantitative research

  • Qualitative research

  • Desk research

This post will give you an overview of each one, including examples and challenges.


Quantitative education market research

What it is

In education market research, quantitative research collects numbers to find patterns and trends. By measuring opinions and behaviours, we build a picture with statistics. This method answers questions such as ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ and provides clear quantifiable data that can help inform your decisions.


Within the education section, we ask participants to fill out online surveys. This allows us to capture vast volumes of data over a short period.

When to use

Quantitative education market research may work best when you need:

  • A lot of data. Ideal for spotting trends and patterns in large groups, providing a broad understanding.

  • Facts and figures. Useful for testing hypotheses and validating assumptions with data and statistics.

  • Informed decision-making. Helps make data-driven decisions by offering clear, statistical insights.

  • Benchmarking and comparison. Allows you to compare different groups or time periods to measure changes and impacts.

We conducted quantitative research with the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education. They wanted to benchmark brand awareness before a new marketing campaign. Using a survey, we assessed perceptions among students and the public in the UK and USA. Our findings provided a clear benchmark to measure future marketing efforts.

"Insightful Research delivered thorough analysis, helping us gauge brand awareness and guide portfolio development. This research was invaluable."

Challenges with quantitative education market research

One challenge with quantitative research is getting enough responses to make your data reliable. We also need to consider surveying the right type of audience. Another issue is crafting clear, unbiased questions, as poorly worded ones may cause confusion.

Fortunately, our expertise and experience help us overcome these challenges. Over the years, we’ve designed countless engaging and easy-to-understand surveys. As an established education market research company, we’ve also built up a vast pool of participants from diverse backgrounds.

Qualitative education market research

What it is

Qualitative education market research delves into people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It explores the 'why' and 'how' behind their decisions, not just the 'what', 'where', and 'when'. This method lets us uncover the deeper motivations behind actions and choices.


Some of the many ways to conduct qualitative education market research include:

  • Interviews. One-on-one chats that dig deep into personal perspectives. These can be face-to-face, over the phone, or through video calls.

  • Focus Groups. Group discussions are led by a moderator. Participants share ideas and interact, allowing ideas to bounce around.

  • Online communities. Online communities provide another way for people to share their opinions and thoughts. Online conversations are continually moderated and participants feed back through web-chats and other online activities.

When to use

In education market research, qualitative methods often work best when:

  • Exploring new or complex topics. When little is known about a subject, this method can act as a springboard.

  • Understanding motivations and beliefs. Ideal for finding out why people think and act the way they do.

  • Developing hypotheses. Use insights from qualitative research to form ideas for further quantitative studies.

Qualitative research helped us gain insights for The Department of Education. We researched teens’ experiences with periods through an anonymous online discussion forum. This encouraged open conversations and provided insights for distributing period products in schools. Our research helped shape the Department's guidance on the Period Product Scheme. Read more about this case study here.

Challenges with Qualitative Research

One challenge with qualitative research is ensuring the data represents the broader population. Collecting and analysing qualitative data also takes time. Researchers need to be skilled in interpreting the findings, too.

Over our 12 years of conducting education market research, we’ve learned to tackle these challenges. We know how to select participants, conduct interviews, and analyse data. Our experience makes us experts in turning data into actionable insights.

Desk education market research

What it is

Desk research involves analysing existing information from sources in the education sector. These include publications, reports, and databases. As we’re not collecting new data, desk research is time and cost-effective.


Here are just a few ways we do desk research for the education sector:


  • Reviewing publications. Use books, journals, and articles relevant to your topic.

  • Analysing reports. Gather insights from industry reports and government data.

  • Database searches. Access information from online databases and repositories.

When to use

Desk research is useful when you need:


  • Background information. Ideal for understanding a topic more thoroughly by using existing data.

  • Supporting data. Complements primary research by adding depth and context from pre-existing sources.

  • Quick insights. Offers quick access to relevant information without the cost and time of collecting new data.

  • Cost-effective analysis. Provides a budget-friendly way to gather valuable insights from existing data.

We often combine desk research with other methods to deliver the best insights for our customers. Some of our go-to sources included:


Challenges with desk research

While desk research is valuable, finding relevant and up-to-date sources can be tricky. information collected for other purposes might not fit your needs either. Existing data may be biased, too.

With over a decade of conducting education market research, we’ve learned how to find current and trustworthy sources. We also combine desk research with other methods, like interviews, for more thorough insights.

The best methods for your education market research

As you’d have gathered from this overview, the best method depends on what you hope to achieve from your education market research. Thanks to our experience of gathering insights from the learning sector, we can select the best techniques for your project. If you’d like to work with a friendly education market research agency, contact us today.

How can we help?

If you would like to ask our advice, book a
no-obligation 30 minute consultation with us to discuss your research requirements or to simply have a chat and find out more about what we do.

Alternatively, use the briefing form to start discussing a new project, give Jill Elston a call on +44 (0)7703 462179 or email us

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