University challenge: Getting students to enroll is a big data job


Higher education is a buyer’s market today, with the student being the buyer, according to Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute. And don’t universities know it. Not only are they dealing with tuition fee caps, but they face mounting competition from other educational institutions.

University pupils

There are many UK students choosing to travel overseas to study and many choosing not to study in formal education at all. With new rules allowing unlimited expansions for university campuses, students are receiving unconditional offers, cash bursaries and scholarships to attract them. This is all while the value of tuition fees is said to be declining in real terms – so much so that some argue they need to be protected to ensure the future of UK education.

Universities have to get ahead, and beyond the attractive unconditional offers and scholarships, that means taking a closer and more intelligent look at the student lifecycle. The lifecycle, from recruitment to retention to alumni, should be designed and optimised to make sure they attract the right students to the right courses and keep them.

That doesn’t just mean using marketing to get the students to apply, but analysing where the lifecycle might go wrong, finding key pain points, and ensuring operational efficiency. It’s less about knowing which students have dropped out or didn’t apply, and more about knowing why.

Many universities have already started this journey and departments are already holding data that offers potential for this sort of analysis. The next step is to fully maximise the benefits that data offers. Are decision makers able to access that information quickly? Could one department learn from the data and insights held by another?

For this to happen, three key things are required:

  1. The elimination of silos within the organization.
  2. The application of analysis.
  3. The ability to offer ‘self-service’ reporting and data visualisation.

Some great examples of where this has worked include:

  • Analysis of not only how likely financial support is to attract new students, but how much is needed to secure their attendance.
  • Looking at the employment market and optimising programmes to meet those demands, ensuring the longer term success of students’ post-graduation career choices.
  • Finding out quickly what causes low-performing courses or modules, and how they can be improved.
  • Ensuring there are enough resources to meet student demand – this is particularly relevant given the benefits on offer, such as scholarships and bursaries, to new students this year.
  • Tracking how effective complementary online resources are to traditional classroom-based learning

These examples are all valuable pieces of insight that can effectively feed into the plans of the educational institution and drive their students’ success. As students continue to rethink how they approach education, so should the organisations that offer it.

Read this report to find out more on how higher education can benefit from immediate decision-making.


About Author

Peter Snelling

Principal Systems Engineer

Peter Snelling is Principal Technical Account Manager at SAS Public Security. Based in the UK, Peter's responsibilities include raising the awareness of SAS software within the policing and intelligence community.

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