Are alumni about to become even more important?

19 May 2021

With growing demand for upskilling and reskilling alumni are set to become an even more important audience for business schools. For many schools, alumni have been either a source of donations or ambassadors for their programmes or both, but increasingly alumni are set to become an audience for further learning.

According to last year’s Alumni Matters study, more than eight out of ten alumni are both proud of and positive about their school. An ideal platform to build on to attract alumni back for further learning. Even more so, when various industry studies suggest the cost of “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one” (Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, October 2014). The same article went on to state “If you’re not convinced that retaining customers is so valuable, consider research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) that shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”

Whether these numbers still hold true in an age of data analytics leading to greater personalisation is unclear, but even if cost isn’t an issue, future value should be. In a Forbes article of April 2019, Wharton Marketing Professor Peter Fader commented “Decisions about customer acquisition, retention and development shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations—they should be based on future value.”

For business schools thinking about retaining their alumni as future learners, there are some important considerations. The starting point is a lack of knowledge among alumni about what is on offer.

In the last Alumni Matters study, only half the survey respondents agree that their school provides them with learning/professional development opportunities, yet 54% would prioritise more opportunities for further learning as a way to improve the alumni relationship. The study also found that 77% would like to have online access to lectures and other content from the faculty and 54% believe alumni should be offered preferential rates to study on future programmes at their business school.

It’s not just about awareness and content, but also how schools communicate this information. Alumni are not first-time students, the majority will be working and their attitudes to study will have developed since their first degree experience. Customer service will be more important, alumni will be more focused on return on investment and convenience/flexibility of study is likely to be a priority. Alumni may also be in a role where they can purchase learning for others in their organisation, making the sales process more B2B than B2C.

Business schools that can develop a strong alumni learning pipeline have an opportunity to grow a significant new business stream, making lifelong learning as important as first degree studies.

The next round of the Alumni Matters study goes live in late June 2021. If your business school would like to take part, further information can be found here or by contacting us at


Photo by Kelly Lacy at

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