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Hot topics: August 2020 in UK Higher Education


It is a miracle anyone working in UK higher education survived August, after what was one of the most dramatic periods we've seen recently. While many would want to forget August, we've looked back at the popular online conversations.


Using Brandwatch for Education, we've reviewed the online conversations mentioning any college or university in the UK. These conversations took place on Twitter, sharing information from social, blogs, forums, news sites, and websites.


With rolling Covid-19 coverage an every day part of our lives right now, we switched it off for this blog. Using a simple Boolean filter NOT covid* to see what's actually being talked beyond the virus. Considering character limits in tweets and what we could see in the data, we didn't filter out "coronavirus". This approach has given us a more balanced view and a range of topics discussed.


Top 50 Emojis, Hashtags, Locations, Organisations, People & Phrases


Put simply, the bigger the word (or emoji) the more it was mentioned during August. Those featured in the top 50 account for 346,142 mentions online. Netflix took the lead on the very last day of the month, racking up 21,144 of its 23,828 monthly mentions total. Why? Well thanks to its mention in a tweet alongside the University of Oxford discussing the death of Chadwick Boseman.

A-Level results day won't be one to forget, we looked at the Twitter data for the 13 August to see which topical hashtag gained the most traction with audiences.

10.46% of August's top 50 conversations were generated on the 13 August, totalling 36,199 mentions.


Top 5 Twitter conversation themes


Dinosaurs, superheroes, vaccines, football, and disaster. This month, our UK universities have featured in an interesting range of conversations. These have ranged from simple mentions and facts, to the hard work of communications teams getting their university's story out.

Institution Mentioned:

University of Oxford

All tweets: 484

Impressions: 52,399,659


"Chadwick Boseman, Who Starred in ‘Black Panther,’ Is Mourned as a ‘Superhero" New York Times


Institution Mentioned:

University of Sheffield

All tweets: 47

Impressions: 31,424,261


"Beirut explosion: Before-and-after images" BBC News



Institution Mentioned:

University of Cambridge

All tweets: 27

Impressions: 24,305,131


"Cambridge university aims for autumn trials of coronavirus vaccine after UK funding" Reuters


Institution Mentioned:

University of Southampton

All tweets: 40

Impressions: 24,294,680


"British fossil hunters find bones of new dinosaur species, cousin to T.Rex" Reuters


Institution Mentioned:

Swansea University

All tweets: 132

Impressions: 18,865,441


"Swansea City: Club move away from betting sponsors" BBC Sport



The top 10 hashtags generated a remarkable 240m impressions during August, with #clearing2020 accounting for 16% of the total. Interestingly, the hashtag only generated half the volume of mentions compared to #alevelresults. Quality over quantity some might say.

A staggering 394m impressions were generated across the top 10 most mentioned tweeters, with the University of Cambridge claiming 23.5% of all impressions.


Did "NOT covid*" make much difference to the results?


In case you were wondering, we did remove the filter, here are a few things we spotted.


Covid-19 mentions had some impact on the data but some of the strong performers still ranked highly with the filter off.

  • Covid ranks top in the word cloud with 53k mentions, Netflix moves into second place

  • An Economist article "Oxford University is leading in the vaccine race" achieved 141,820,805 impressions

  • Cambridge remained top of the most mentioned tweeters, taking its total impression count to over 100m

Want to know more?


If you want to find out more about Brandwatch for Education and analysing the data for your university, get in touch.

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