UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Institutional Use of Twitter by the 1994 Group of UK Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Feb 2011

A survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was published on 14th January 2011. But are the approaches taken across that sector typical of the UK HE community? In order to observe approaches across a wider group of institutions the survey was repeated across the 1994 Group. This group, which was established in 1994 “brings together nineteen internationally renowned, research-intensive universities. The Group provides a central vehicle to help members promote their common interests in higher education, respond efficiently to key policy issues, and share best methods and practice.

The survey was carried out on 18-19th January 2011 and, as with the initial survey, recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published together with details of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts and the provision of links to the Tweetstats service which provides statistical information on the average number of tweets posted per month .

Note that following comments made on the initial survey it was felt that it would be useful to include information on the number of Twitter lists which the accounts are included in (as described in a post on Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! we may start to see Twitter lists being used in a number of interesting ways(.

In addition information on the background provided on the Twitter Web site is included, as this may have implications for accessibility, and details of the date of the first tweet have been included. The statistical information provided by the Tweetstats service was extended to profile the Twitter clients used to post tweets. Also note that the information was gathered from the Web interface while not logged in to Twitter and that the full URL of the link to the institutional Web site is provided (rather than the partial URL which is displayed which was published in the previous survey).

Institution Nos. of Followers Following Tweets Nos. of Lists First Tweet Tweetstats Background Image
1 University of Bath: @uniofbath

Name: University of Bath
Location: Bath, England
Bio: News from the University of Bath

5,339 73 1,642 290 19 Jan 2009 Tweetstats for University of Bath:

Average: 65 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (50%), Web (42%)

Logo and brief textual information
2 Birkbeck, University of London:

No single central account but multiple accounts listed.

3 Durham University: @durhamuni

Name: Durham University
Location: Durham, UK
Bio: Shaped by the past, creating the future

4,302 2 208 233 2 Aug 2008 Tweetstats for Durham University:

Average: 6 tweets per month.

Twitter clients: Twitterfeed (100%)

Purple background
4 University of East Anglia: @UEA_news

Name: Uni of East Anglia
Location: Norwich, Norfolk, UK
Bio: The University of East Anglia is an internationally-renowned university based in the cathedral city of Norwich in the UK.

3,256 129 307 158 26 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for University of East Anglia:

Average: 13 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (53%), TwitThis (46%)

Plain blue background
5 University of Essex: @Uni_of_Essex Name: University of Essex
Location: Colchester, Loughton, Southend
Bio: The University of Essex is one of the UK’s leading academic institutions. We are one of the UK’s top ten universities for both teaching and research.
2,259 237 876 112 27 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for Uni_of_Essex:

Average: 38 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (39%), Facebook (36%), Web (21%),  Google (3%)

Photo with text of URLs for other social Web accounts
6 University of Exeter: @uniofexeter Name: University of Exeter
Location: Devon, UKWeb:
Bio: Exeter is a top UK university which combines world leading research with very high levels of student satisfaction.
1,829 1,720 608 71 28 Jul 2009 Tweetstats for University of Exeter:

Average: 33 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (50%), Twitterfeed (24%), Web (9%)

Photo montage
7 Goldsmiths, University of London: @goldsmithsuol

Name: Goldsmiths
Location: New Cross, London, SE14
Bio: The latest news and events from Goldsmiths, University of London. Regularly updated by real people in the Goldsmiths Press Office!

2,883 458 428 174 13 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for Goldsmiths, University of London

Average: 15 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (59%), Web (24%)

8 Institute of Education, University of London: @IOE_London

Name: IOE
Location: London, UK
Bio: News and events from the Institute of Education, University of London

699 279 226 29 22 Jan 2010 Tweetstats for Institute of Education, University of London:

Average: 13 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (73%) NOTE 1

Photo, logo and textual information
9 Lancaster University: @lancasteruni

Name: Lancaster University
Location: Lancaster, UK
Bio: News from Lancaster University

2,886 136 290 198 20 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for Lancaster University:

Average: 10 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (57%) NOTE 1

10 University of Leicester: @UniofLeics

Name: University Leicester
Location: University of Leicester, UK
Bio: Twitter channel for the University of Leicester

758 49 141 49 9 Oct 2009 Tweetstats for Leicester University:
Average: 14 tweets per month.
Twitter clients
Web (95%)
11 Loughborough University: @lborouniversity

Name: Loughborough Uni
Location: Loughborough
Bio: None

423 14 164 43 5 Aug 2009 Tweetstats for Loughborough University:
Average:  9 tweets per month.
Twitter clients
: Tweetdeck (80%), Web (7%)
12 Queen Mary, University of London: @qmul

Name: Queen Mary Uni Londn
Location: London, UK
Web: – with tag info
Bio: News and events and some other musings from Queen Mary, University of London.

2,644 1,250 799 150 28 Jan 2009 Tweetstats for Queen Mary, University of London:

Average: 30 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (59%), Web (25%), (6%), Facebook (4%)

Photo and logo
13 University of Reading: @UniRdg_News

Name: Uni of Reading
Location: Reading, England
Bio: Keep up to date with all the latest news from the University of Reading!

625 143 176 42 19 Jan 2010 Tweetstats for the University of Reading:
Average: 8 tweets per month.Twitter clients:
Web (60%)
14 University of St Andrews:  @univofstandrews

Name: Univ of St Andrews
Location: St Andrews
Bio: University of St Andrews – Scotland’s first university

2,352 118 299 158 2 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for University of St Andrews:
Average: 12 tweets per month.Twitter clients:

Tweetfeed (78%), Twhirl (8%), Seesmic (5%), Web (2%)

Blue background and logo
15 School of Oriental and African Studies: @SOASNews

Name: SOAS News
Bio: None

(Note I was informed on 12 March 2011 that the @SOASnewsroom and @SOASfeed are the official SOAS Twitter feeds)

(122) (2) (0) (3) Default
16 University of  Surrey:  @uniofsurrey

Name: University of  Surrey
Location: Guildford, UK
Bio: Tweets from the University of Surrey

4,058 473 710 216 ??? Tweetstats for University of  Surrey

Average: 24 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Cotweet (72%), Tweetie  (5%),Web (3%), Tweetdeck (2%)

Photo and logo
17 University of Sussex: @sussexuni

Name: University of Sussex
Location: Brighton, UK
Bio: University of Sussex is a top 10 UK research intensive university set in beautiful downland on the edge of Brighton, with over 11,000 students and 2,500 staff.

5,866 1,171 1,824 321 16 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for University of Sussex:

Average: 74 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (50%), Hootsuite (43%), MobileWeb (3%)

18 University of York: @uniofyork

Name: University of York
Location: York, UK
Bio: The latest news and events at the University of York, UK

2,822 113 394 222 30 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for University of York:
Average: 17 tweets per month.Twitter clients: (58%), Web (40%)
TOTAL 41,320 6,367 9,092

Note the the results from use of the MyFirstTweet service were inconsistent due to problems with the service itself. It is also unclear as to whether the correct page will be displayed by following the link provided.

Also note that the results for SOAS were not included in the subsequent discussions and analyses.


The previous survey documented examples of emerging best practices including suggestions on:

  • Content provided in profile information (the bio: field).
  • Location information.
  • Links to the host institution.

This information is not repeated here.


A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics for the 1994 Group is given below:

  • Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 423-5,866 (in comparison with a range of 865-12,265 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 2-1,720 (in comparison with a range of 33-5,089 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 141-1,824  (in comparison with a range of 192-1,167 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 6-74 (in comparison with a range of 23-91 for Russell Group Universities).

Further Thoughts on Emerging Best Practices

The previous survey highlighted some suggestions for emerging best practices based on observations on how Twitter is being used across Russell Group Universities. This suggestions will not be repeated here. Instead comments will be restricted to some of the additional features which were surveyed:

  • Background image and content: In the previous survey it was pointed out that “many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others … with additional textual information and link information“. However such approaches may, arguably, act as barriers to people with disabilities. There will be a need for institutions to understand and address such concerns.
  • Twitter clients used for posting: The Tweetstats tool provides information on clients used to post tweets. It may be useful for those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts to monitor the various clients used in order to be able to identify tools which may prove particularly useful for institutional tweeting.
  • Dates of first tweets: The date of an initial tweet may give an indication of when an institution began tweeting (although this may not be when a institutional Twitter feed was officially launched).  However such information may indicate when Twitter became prevalent as an institutional tool.  many of the institutions seem to have launched their service in early 2009 – it would be interesting to see if that related to an event shortly before that date.

I hope these comments will prove useful for those involved in managing institutional (or department) Twitter accounts.


10 Responses to “Institutional Use of Twitter by the 1994 Group of UK Universities”

  1. Clare said

    Think SOAS is tweeting from @SOASnewsroom rather than @SOASnews.

  2. Rob said

    Although the list is alphabetical, the number column on the left seems to imply a hierarchy in the table which at first glance could be confusing for someone reading it.

  3. Helen said

    We’re tweeting across a mix of Twitter accounts rather than having a single corporate account, so we have ‘branded’ ones for News, Student, ITS, Alumni, Apply, Grad, IntOff, etc, as well as schools and projects and academics having separate, less branded, accounts that are more specific to their area of activity. I imagine others might be taking a similar approach, so I wonder if it might also be useful to see overall Twitter presence/approach for each institution?

    • I hope that the approach I’ve taken for a single institutional account will be useful in understanding why such measures can be useful. I feel that individual institutions will need to apply these approaches across their own portfolio of Twitter accounts – it is not a scalable solution to do this remotely.

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