How Predictive Analytics can aid universities in the race for students, money & status

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For those students who found out their A-level results on the 18th August, who’ve achieved good A-level grades will be in high demand as universities face one of the biggest scrambles in years to fill places. Why the rush? The glut in places is blamed on fears that European and overseas students will turn their backs on Britain because of uncertainties over funding after Brexit, coupled with a drop in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK — especially males — applying for university.

As a result, many universities are poised to slash A-level grade offers and will accept students who may have underperformed in the exams through clearing. Others are coming up with ever more imaginative ways to attract the best applicants. These range from ‘bogof’ degree courses, promising top-flight A-level students who enrol as £9,000-a-year undergraduates that they can go on to receive free tuition for a masters, to free Premier League tickets, iPads, airport transfers and discounted courses, if applicants can persuade a sibling or spouse to sign up to a place as well.

While everything points to the fact that this autumn is going to be a buyers’ market for students, this shift in attitude highlights the need for universities to be able to market themselves to possible new ‘clients’ as efficiently as any other private company. Universities need to ensure that they are making the most of their data to prove their success in supporting students both throughout their course and on the numbers of graduates that enter employment at the end of it. The increase in fees has made students much more demanding than they were previously and universities have to work hard to keep up with the expectation that undergraduates need value for money for their £9,000 per year. At the same time, it’s vital for them to be able to easily access real-time student enrolment data to ensure that they’re meeting targets.

Currently, many universities and colleges are using systems that just can’t keep up with or provide the data they need to ensure they appeal to potential entrants and as a result, may be falling behind the competition. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of waiting for time consuming spreadsheet reports which become out-of-date as soon as they are compiled, data visualisation or BI reporting tools like Active Dashboards means that a single click of the mouse can provide real-time viewing of the live number of enquiries and enrolments against targets. This not only delivers immediate institution-wide visibility of exactly which courses have places available, but also enables universities to be agile in decision-making, using the dashboards to act more decisively and focus attention exactly where it is needed, such as identifying where there is under or over-subscription to courses.

This data-driven insight not only helps to put the university in the best possible position in time for the new term, but also informs planning for next year by revealing those courses that perhaps need to be adapted to ensure they attract more students; or discontinued if the interest demand simply isn’t there.

In addition, this easily accessible real-time information on student enrolments enables the finance department to get invoices issued more quickly and payments through faster. Links between enrolment data and data supplied to colleges by the Student Loan Company ensures that colleges can keep an accurate track of all loan applications to enable a timely process of income and monitoring of college loan facility budgets. BI or data visualisation tools like Active Dashboards also highlights the profitability of individual courses by monitoring the generation of income from funding, fees and student loans against the delivery costs of the course. This ensures universities and colleges can better assess course viability and target maximum efficiency. BI dashboards also reveal the profitability of individual courses by monitoring the generation of income from learners against the delivery costs of the course – meaning better assessment of course viability.

Dashboard technology can ensure universities can easily see exactly where they stand at any given moment, whether it’s success in attracting and retaining students, identifying and managing data around available funds or which courses achieve the best results. By visualising this data in dashboards, these insights on key metrics can not only help pinpoint exactly where you need to focus attention to ensure a steady flow of applicants, it can help predict trends and plan appropriate actions for the future. The result? Universities or colleges can maintain that competitive edge in a time when competition for applicants is more cut throat than ever.




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