Frightening Stuff: It’s Monsters University

Fictional and daft but really rather impressive

My attention was drawn recently to the Monsters University website. It is of course an entirely fictional construct to promote a new animated movie from Pixar which is a prequel to Monsters Inc from a decade ago.

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Looking through the site it really is a quite good pastiche of the top level of university websites. It covers everything from Admissions to Campus Life and student related policies on employment, keeping pets and international student support. An extract from the University history gives a flavour:

Established in 1313 following a land grant from the city of Monstropolis, Monsters University has grown from a small local center of learning to a leading global institution of higher education. Upon this hallowed ground, some of the most fabled academic buildings in the world have been built, serving the hundreds of thousands of alumni that have walked the halls and grounds of MU.

So, utterly daft but really also rather good. It also helpfully reminds us that our own institutions’ sites might be just a few words away from the cartoon world. My only criticisms would be that the curriculum in the School of Scaring looks a little thin and there is insufficient coverage of Professional Monster Services.

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Universities spending millions on ‘inadequate’ websites

Money down the drain?

A report in the Telegraph highlights significant spending by universities on website redesigns which seems to deliver less than spectacular results:

Using Freedom of Information legislation the Telegraph discovered eight examples of universities spending between £100,000 and £280,000 on one-off website redesigns, as much as five times higher than the average spending.

The average annual spending on the maintenance of a university website is £60,375. That figure excludes additional spending on one-off redesigns, for which the average spending is £60,882.

The most expensive university website is the University of Hertfordshire’s, which spent £278,094 on a redesign by Precedent Communications and Straker UK, completed in May 2008. The university also employs staff whose salaries cost £221,500 every year, in addition to £14,500 each year for software support.

The reality is though that every university will account for its spend on its website differently with some being more centralised and others being more devolved. Whichever way you look at it though, spending £60k a year on maintaining a website seems an extremely modest investment for such a key recruitment, promotional and communications tool.

The report also quotes a survey by Times Higher Education which asked sixth form pupils to rate university websites:

The survey split university websites into three categories — well performing, average performing and badly performing — based on five principles including accessibility, contact information, the availability of good feedback from students, the uniqueness of the website and the quality of insight into the campus experience. Comparing spending information with the Times Higher Education survey suggests that some universities may be under-investing in their websites.

So, the conclusions are that some universities are under-investing and others are spending too much and no-one has really got the balance right. Helpful.