The visual culture gives an opportunity to form one’s identity – it may also happen without us noticing it. The imagery in the higher education marketing materials can shape our view of the ideal student’s profile. When the goal is to support young people from different backgrounds to university, the representation should be broad and offer possibilities of identification.
According to Lotta Molander’s master’s thesis (2020), the representation of imagery in higher education marketing materials is very limited. The imagery offers very few, if any, identifying possibilities for non-binary, non-white or disabled people. However, in Finland it is considered important that underrepresented groups become a part of the higher education community. We wanted to find out what the young people think about the imagery in higher education marketing materials. The most important questions were the following ones. Are the young people able to relate to the representation in the marketing materials? How can the representation in imagery be developed in their opinion? What kind of influence does the marketing materials have on the motivation of young people to applying to higher education?
Project worker Jaana interviewed three young people who were not yet studying at higher education but are interested in getting there in the future. They were shown marketing materials of 18 Finnish higher education institutes. All of the interviewees found some pictures where they could see themselves as a part of the student community, but they also had many ideas for the development of the representation. According to their views, for example representation of roma community, LGTBQ+ and young people with mental health issues or neurodiversity characteristics should be a part of the representation in order to offer broader possibilities of identification.