Research by social media consultancy Sociagility shows that Britain’s elite universities are losing out to their US counterparts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In times where student fees are going up and higher educational choices are getting tougher, it’s an important space when focussing on domestic and international student recruitment.

The statistical study was conducted this month and published today as The Transatlantic University Divide. The report compares the scores of the top 25 US and the top 25 UK universities (in the 2011-2012 Times Higher Education World University Rankings) with their social media scores based on Sociagility’s PRINT Index, which measures five social attributes of brands across multiple social media platforms.

The UK’s higher education institutions performed, as a group, just over half as well as their US counterparts. Their average PRINT Index score was 72 versus an average US score of 127.

Within the combined transatlantic group, only two UK universities, University of Oxford and University of Sheffield, made it into the top ten.

university ranking UK universities trail behind their US counterparts on social platforms

The study also found that PRINT social media performance scores correlate directly with the Times Higher scores, to a 99.9% degree of confidence (i.e. probability of not being a chance effect).

oxford UK universities trail behind their US counterparts on social platforms

In the US-only listings, Harvard University claimed the honours ahead of University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

It is possible that the uptake of social business for education is lower in the UK as the market is not as mature as the US. Many people in the UK still regard Facebook as a place for personal connections rather than one to connect with brands. But the differences in this report are undeniable. Tony Burgess-Webb of Sociagility, said:

“It’s definitely a case of ‘could do better if tried harder’ for the UK universities. With a few honourable exceptions, most of the leadership in social performance is in the US and this has implications for reputation, alumni relation and recruitment.”

Most businesses are realising that social is not just a part-time activity to attract attention but that a sophisticated and integrated approach will help boost profits and sales. Education is a business that has always needed economic support and that situation is only getting harder while students think twice about the fees required for university.

There is of course the opinion that students spend too much time on the internet already, but at least with a good social plan, educational establishments can be there too in order to recruit them in the first place.