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University (Data) Challenges Disrupt Student Experience in Almost Half of UK Institutions

47% of universities and colleges not confident that their systems are well connected, survey of 150 IT decision makers finds

ETON, UK, 2nd December, 2021 – Over half (59%) of higher education institutions said the secure sharing of data has been their biggest IT challenge over the last 18 months as they dealt with the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

According to research commissioned by InterSystems, an innovative data technology provider dedicated to helping customers solve the most critical information challenges, the majority of institutions were operating with a dispersed staff and student body during this period, while almost half (47%) aren’t confident that all of the systems within their organisation are well connected to each other, creating difficulties with efficiency, as well as the student experience.

The survey of 150 IT decision makers from higher education institutions across the UK and Ireland alsofound that 32% were forced to make changes to their IT infrastructure as a result of the pandemic, but of this figure, 52% have since had to make further adaptations to IT infrastructure. The biggest driver to connect existing systems within organisations is to gain a holistic view of all data across the institution, while 17% said it’s to remove outdated data collection methods, such as paperwork and manual data entry. Only 15% say this action would be driven by the ability to facilitate a connected student experience.

The need for a holistic view of data is further reiterated by the delays in institutions accessing the data they collect, with almost a third (32%) saying it takes them between four– 23 hours. Meanwhile over a quarter (26%) say it takes up to a day.

Enzo Brienza, Partnership Alliances Manager, InterSystems, commented, “The impact that legacy data sharing practices and inadequate technology integration can have on the student experience can’t be underestimated. It can leave students facing delays in receiving information and having to adhere to long-winded processes that really clash with the types of services and experiences they receive in all other areas of their lives. Ultimately, the student experience is the top priority for any higher education institution and their data infrastructure and processes need to reflect that, making the student experience as smooth and streamlined as it can possibly be.”

Exploring how institutions use this data, the most common use case is to inform decision making by the IT department (35%), followed by research development (27%), and research projects (25%). This highlights that data isn’t being used as effectively across the entire institution, particularly in departments that directly impact the student experience, such as admissions which is only a use case for 22%.

Brienza added, “The use of data analytics, particularly self-service platforms, would prove highly beneficial in helping data to be used more widely and more effectively across the institution. However, currently, only 23% of respondents are planning to increase investment in analytics over the next 12 months. Similarly, currently, less than a third (31%) of institutions are using artificial intelligence and just 29% have implemented analytics. This shows there is opportunity for more institutions to adopt the technologies and solutions that will help them to automate processes and get the most from their data, to deliver this value back to their students. Ensuring their systems can interoperate and share data in real time will also help to improve the student experience by giving students the same instant access to information that they have become so accustomed to in all other aspects of their lives.”

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