Would Monash University Be A Good Venue
To Open A Nightclub?

                                                              

 

Peter Engholm

Monash University, March 2000

 

 

 

ABSTRACT:

The purpose of this report is to develop a marketing research plan that would assist in the process of gathering information about and determining whether Monash University would be a good venue to open a nightclub. The report discusses issues that must be considered such as whom the customers are, and the university’s responsibility to the Australian society - primarily evaluating the opinions among the public about the university being another provider of opportunities for students to consume alcohol.

The report suggests various methods and tools that can be used to collect primary and secondary information, for example email survey, media poll and various publications and reports about alcohol policy. It concludes that when the plan has been implemented and all the necessary information has been collected, the university can make its decision. However, it will probably face a strong opposition from the public if it decides to go through with the project, and it is unlikely that this will be the case.

 

KEYWORDS:

Marketing research, Monash university, Australia, nightclub

 

FULL TEXT:

 

1. Introduction

1.1  Purpose

The purpose of this report is to develop a marketing research plan that would assist in the process of gathering information about and determining whether Monash University would be a good venue to open a nightclub.


1.2  Scope

The report determines the necessary sources of information that needs to be taken into account when developing the research plan, and suggests relevant and accurate approaches and methods that can be used in order to reach a reliable and rational conclusion to the issue.


1.3  Methodology

Various publications, such as textbooks, articles and Internet resources have been used to support the suggested research procedures and methods. Information on Monash University official website has provided certain facts and policy issues.


1.4  Assumptions and limitations:

In preparing the research plan, it has been assumed that the proposed nightclub would be run directly under the full ownership of Monash University or by some form of outsourcing. This puts limitations on the plan in that it might be of no or little value for other plausible structures of ownership. However, whatever structure of operation is chosen, it shall be assumed that in any case the University’s full responsibility to its customers, clients and stakeholders is not removed.

Also, due to the lack of information about the desired outcomes of opening a nightclub at Monash University - for example to reap profit, to provide more service to existing customers (students and staff), or to attract more new customers - the report has its limitations as different desired outcomes might necessitate different approaches of marketing research. The assumption is, however, that the nightclub would be a benefit to Monash University - financially as well as promotionally.

Finally, it has been assumed that the client is the Board of Directors of Monash University at Clayton campus, who would like to gain better insight to how to research the issue.


1.5  Background

Monash University is the largest university in Australia, with over 47,000 staff and students located at six different campuses in and around Melbourne, southern Victoria, Australia. The question has been raised to whether Monash University would be a good venue to open a nightclub, which can be seen to be in line with the notion proposed by Peter Coaldrake (1999: p.131) that universities in Australia today are “facing an environment characterised by a focus on outcomes and outputs and expectations of greater responsiveness to the needs of students and external communities”. Hence, the opening of a nightclub might well be considered a rational response to this need. Consequently, a marketing research plan determines what information and methods to be used in the decision-making process. First, however, some issues need to be considered if the marketing research is to become successful.

2. Issues to Consider

2.1  Customers and stakeholders

The first issue involves determining to whom Monash University owes certain responsibilities through its various courses of actions. That is, who would have an interest in whether the university decides to open up a nightclub on its premises?

In contrast to many organisations in the private sector who may only have to worry about their limited range of customers and clients, universities have a much wider range of responsibilities that encompasses the whole society in which it functions. In fact, Monash University has a responsibility to every Australian citizen to provide education according to expected prevailing standards. Although Jenny Stewart (1997: p.41) writes in an article a few years ago that “universities slip through the net of many of the institutions of formal, political accountability”, an opening up of a nightclub may well have a profound impact on a much higher level than on its immediate customers, and this must be accounted for. Hence, this marketing research plan considers two main groups of customers when proposing strategies and methods to collect information:

Group A: The identifiable active customers, which mainly include students and staff at Monash University that most likely will form the bulk of visitors to the nightclub; and:

Group B: The unidentifiable passive customers, including the Australian society and other stakeholders that have an interest in that Monash University provides education in relation to the public’s expectations and Government regulation.

 

2.2  Opposition

There is a chance that the idea to open up a nightclub may ignite firm opposition, primarily among Group B customers. It is likely to assume that a focus on serving alcohol is not generally seen as a preferred complement to higher education in this group, and the idea to combine the two may spark strong feelings. This should be kept in mind throughout the research process, and is also dealt with in section 3.2 of this report.

 

3. Collecting the Data

3.1  Specifying the information needed

The marketing research process begins with determining what type of information is needed to assist in the choice of methods and tools to be used for collecting the data.
For this issue, the following information may be helpful:

       i)     The attitudes among Group A and Group B customers towards opening up a                           nightclub at Monash University.

       ii)     The level of competition among nightclubs and similar venues around Clayton                           campus.
       iii)    Information regarding the effects of the combination of alcohol and education

This information can be gathered from various sources of primary and secondary sources of data, detailed below.


3.2  Secondary source data

Secondary data consist on information that already exist somewhere, having been collected for other purposes. The most cited benefits by using secondary data compared to primary data is that it is quicker and cheaper to get hold of. There are problems, however, with secondary data in that the information needed sometimes may not exist, and even if it does, it may not be relevant, accurate, current or impartial to the issue in question, in this case, the opening up of a nightclub (Kotler et.al., 1998: p.159). Secondary data will probably not be available for the purpose of providing information to part i) and ii) in section 3.1 above, but may show some insight to part iii). A variety of secondary data sources can be used to get valuable insight to plausible effects of introducing a more easily accessible ‘drinking hole’ for university students, such as:

A. Government and non-government reports accessible through the Internet, for example:         
       i)     Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (www.aihw.gov.au)

       ii)     Center for Education and Information on Drugs and Alcohol (www.ceida.net.au)

       iii)    Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au)

       iv)    Victorian Government Health and Education Publications (www.vic.gov.au)

       v)    Australian Drug Foundation, Victoria (www.adf.org.au)

B. Newspaper articles, periodicals, Internet articles and books available in libraries and on the Internet.

Models of the affects of alcohol on students can be used to determine the risks of creating a health-endangering university environment by giving the students more and better opportunities to consume alcohol. Consider the following model by Zucker (Rivers & Shore, 1997: p. 12):

Figure 1:

A Probabilistic Developmental Model of the Flow of Risk across the Biopsychosocial Domain Structure, and over the Life Course.



This model illustrates the developmental flow of risk factors (items on the Y axis) over the lifetime of an individual (X axis) and highlights the potential for continuity and discontinuity. In other words, models like this intend to show that at all stages in life, individuals are positively and negatively affected by socio-cultural, familial, peer, psychological and biological factors, and that at a particular stage (for example between middle childhood and adolescence where most university students would fit in), if these factors are having a strong negative influence on the individual the effects of excessive alcohol consumption may push the individual “over the edge” of destruction (Rivers & Shore, 1997: pp.12-13). As the university is dealing with customers that may be in a highly negative influential part of their life, models like this can help understanding opinions in the market that goes against the opening up of a nightclub, and from there on develop suitable market strategies that takes all these opinions into account.

 

3.3  Primary source data

Primary data consist of information that is collected for a specific purpose at hand. It is often more time-consuming and costly, but for the purpose of gathering descriptive information about the consumers’ attitudes towards a nightclub, it is a necessary element in this case.

3.3.1  Survey research

Survey research is the most widely used method for primary data (Kotler et.al. 1998: p.163), and this is probably also the best way for Monash University to get information from its customers in Group A (students and staff). The university has an advantage in having most students’ and staff’s email addresses in its database, hence a structured email questionnaire would be the most effective one to use. Sending out an email to a sample of the students and staff with a few basic questions should give valuable information to attitudes about opening up a nightclub. However, if the survey is not properly designed so that the response rate is too low, the sample is not well chosen, or that the information provided is subject of bias or inaccuracy, the result could be far from desirable and not descriptive of the whole population. Livingstone (1977: p.13), for example, warns that if the questions are too difficult to answer or the questionnaire is too long, the response rate will be affected, and according to Gendall (2000: p.5), a response rate of at least 50 percent can be regarded as a rough rule for a minimum acceptable response rate. However, a survey to the students and staff at Monash University should not need to be too complex, as basic attitudes about a nightclub would be enough information for this issue.

3.3.2 Media & Information tools

Media poll is a way for Monash University to gather the opinions of its customers in Group B (the whole society). Because the university is responsible also to the society, it needs to publicly ventilate the views about opening up a nightclub. Starting a debate about the issue in The Age or The Herald Sun would gain good insight to different opinions, and the weekly poll in The Age could provide further assistance. Having a poll on the Monash University website, would probably not be an alternative as it would be much subject to bias. The visitors to the site would probably most consist of students and staff that might have a positive attitude to a nightclub, and hence the information retained would be misleading. Information sessions can help eliminate misunderstandings and confusions among the public. In a wider scope, a public relations approach can widen the information network and provide more channels and opportunities for the public to have its say. Collecting as much information from the society as possible will be greatly beneficial to the research process, as wrong or misunderstood signals from the public may have a severe effect on the decision finally taken.

3.3.3 Competition

The information about the level of competition is best derived through the email survey (discussed in section 3.3.1) mainly because the most knowledge about nearby pubs, nightclubs and discotheques probably is found among students.

4. Conclusion

If Monash University wants to evaluate whether it is a good venue to open up a nightclub, it must collect primary and secondary data that can assist in the decision-making process. This data include considering who the actual customers are, and it has been shown that not only the people that would go to the nightclub (primarily university students) are the customers, but also the wider society with its subtle interest in that the provision of higher education is done according to prevailing expectations and government policy. This raises question about alcohol policy and whether opening up a nightclub at the university’s premises is an acceptable move. Monash University must collect data about the implications of providing students a greater accessibility and opportunity to alcohol consumption, and undertake a risk analysis that can serve as a basis for the final decision-making process.

There are various of sources of primary and secondary data to use for the gathering of information, and the most effective would be email survey for direct customer attitudes and competition information, published reports and surveys for the alcohol policy analyses, and various media and information tools to scan the public’s opinion and attitudes.

When all the necessary information has been collected and analysed, the question to whether Monash University would be a good venue to open a nightclub can be resolved. It may be argued, that he tendency by the government to more and more loosen the strings that only a few years ago strictly tied the higher education system to set Government standards, gives universities enhanced opportunities to lead their own way, and for Monash University this could by all means lead to a future in the nightclub business. However, it is unlikely that the Australian society will take this path and accept such a system of higher education.

 

Any reproduction or distribution of this text is prohibited without express permission by the author. Please contact peter@engholm.nu for permission or further information.

 

REFERENCES:

Clayton Rivers, P. & Shore, E.R., (1997). Substance Abuse on Campus. Greenwood Press, London.

Coaldrake, P., (1999). “The Changing Climate of Australian Higher Education: An International Perspective” in Higher Education Management. Vol. 11, No 1, pp.117-134.

Gendall, P., (2000). “Responding to the Problem of Non-response” in Australasian Journal of Market Research. Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.3-17.

Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Brown, L., & Adam, S. (1998). Marketing. Prentice Hall, Sydney.

Livingstone, J.M., (1977). A Management Guide to Market Research. MacMillan Press Ltd., London.

Monash University Website, http://www.monash.edu.au.

Stewart, J., (1997). “Rethinking University Management” in Australian Universities Review.
Vol. 40, No. 2, pp.36-41.