With increased university fees, high living expenses, and the increased competition for graduate jobs; students are becoming more selective about where they choose to study, and this is having an impact on universities.
Changes in student’s behaviour and expectations, coupled with external social factors, are increasing recruitment pressures in the present competitive higher education environment. This increased competition has led to the introduction of measures to enhance the appeal of campuses to potential students.
The key facets of this change are: the re-positioning of how a student is viewed; the move from a learner to a consumer; and the shift of higher education institutions running on a business model. This shift in student behaviour has resulted in a change in their desire for a higher education; students no longer feel that a purely academic outcome from their time at the university is worth the financial investment.
With these market changes, there is a widespread view that in order to remain competitive, universities must respond effectively to student views or risk being left behind and suffer reputational damage from negative reviews.
Beyond just learning
Although teaching and learning is the central part of a university’s purpose; the living, social and support services are increasingly becoming a vital part of the student experience, and high levels of satisfaction in these areas can lead to more positive learning outcomes.
Increasingly, institutions are realising globally that the ‘student experience’ is central to the long-term success of their institution and that this ‘experience’ touches on all aspects of a university’s operation. There is a genuine cultural shift in the direction of thinking broadly about a student’s life-cycle on campus beyond academic learning.
"This increased competition has led to the introduction of measures to enhance the appeal of campuses to potential students."
Universities must now factor in all touch points they have with students, from the initial application process, to the campus offering and the pathway to employment. Higher education providers need to think about how they are providing value and reaching students in a way that resonates with them and works within their world. To answer these questions, universities are turning to data to provide deeper insights into their students.
The role of data
Individual institutions are using data to help understand what their student’s feel, which they then use to improve the overall experience. This ‘experience’ is a broad term and can cover everything from language support for international students, career advice from the lecturers, or establishing a more effective training programme for academics. It is about providing added value to ensure students are prepared for life after study.
The value of data to improve the student experience and provide insights has not been historically available, but technical updates and the internet has given universities the ability to tap into the vast amount of data they have collected through analytics and seek insights beyond just results..
Tribal Group has been collecting data from three million students via the Student Barometer since 2005 capturing the evolving views of students on their living, learning and study experiences across 33 countries.
"In order to remain competitive, universities must respond effectively to student views or risk being left behind"
Fairly consistently over the last few years, this data has revealed that having a high satisfaction across all elements of the university experience including campus buildings, good contacts, social activities, and employability will make students ambassadors for their institutions. These are some of the key items that universities need to get right to ensure that students become brand ambassadors through positive experiences.
Universities of the future
Big data and analytics are increasingly being used to support students, manage staff effectively, and make strategic management decisions. Institutions are applying tools and proven practices for business intelligence, predictive analytics, financial performance and strategy management – all with the goal of increasing efficiencies and improving student success.
"Individual institutions are using data to help understand what their student’s feel, which they then use to improve the overall experience"
The universities that are embracing change and leveraging data to improve experience at all touch points of a student’s time on campus will ultimately create the positive sentiment needed to ensure they remain competitive. Students are holding universities to a higher standard, and institutions that listen and respond will ultimately attract the best and brightest talent.