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King’s Spent Almost £50k Advertising App To Its Own Students

Photo Courtesy of Emma Carmichael

Roar can reveal that King’s College London (KCL) has spent £48,401.27 promoting the use of the ‘King’s Student’ app since its launch in autumn 2022.

Around £26,500 was spent on promoting the app to students during the last academic year (2022/23), which was the first in which the software was available to students. Over that same period, the app was downloaded 23,034 times, meaning that the university invested over £1 in advertising per student who downloaded the app.

The app’s total cost to the University, over its 19-month lifespan to date, has now risen to £499,433.27. The annual fixed running cost of the Tribal Edge software and relevant staff salaries is roughly £170,000, meaning that – even with no additional advertising and if running costs do not rise – the total app cost is scheduled to exceed £1 million by 2026/27.

KCL state that a significant share of the annual salary cost is paid to staff who have responsibilities alongside the management of the King’s Student app. They therefore suggest that this means that expenditure on the app is lower than the numbers received by Roar in their Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

App usership data is broken down by month, which makes uptake (for example, frequency of use) difficult to determine. What is clear from the limited information provided is that, similarly to last year, app use dropped by around 40% between September and January.

The University state that they are working with Tribal on developing a dashboard of metrics so that app data is reported more regularly and with more detail in future. They also state that other comparable institutions experience declines in software usage over the academic year.

KCL originally withheld the information about King’s Student, giving the explanation that “disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the university” and the information was “very likely to cause reputational damage to King’s and Tribal”. Roar appealed the decision and, 86 days after the original request, the data was eventually released.

A KCL spokesperson told Roar that:

“The King’s app was developed collaboratively with students from start to finish, with both current students and alumni involved in the project team. We conducted numerous focus groups, pilots, and surveys as part of this process. While we are pleased with the largely positive feedback received since its launch, averaging a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars, we remain committed to ongoing engagement with our student community to further enhance and refine the app.”

KCL spokesperson

Students are invited to download Roar’s own app, available on the App Store and Google Play, which cost only a few hundred pounds to develop and run. No money has been spent on its promotion.

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