The Student Lifecycle Experience: Change and Transformation at Universities

UK universities are among the best in the world – last year’s Times Higher Education world university rankings placed the University of Oxford at the top of its league table, and named 19 other UK universities in its top 200. It’s been a difficult few years for both universities and their students, with pressures including competition from international institutions, higher fees, uncertainty around research funding, staff recruitment and retention, and increasing concern for student wellbeing. However, many universities now have a Student Lifecycle Experience in place to support students’ education lifecycle.

What is the Student Lifecycle Experience?

The student lifecycle experience (SLE) is a process which is designed to support students from before they apply to a specific university, through to graduation and beyond. It’s a data-driven measure of student ‘success’ and aims to ensure that they feel like they belong, that their educational journey is optimised and that their learning outcomes are improved. 

The SLE is a constantly-evolving, transformative process that benefits students and helps those involved with managing it create outstanding learning experiences. It’s something that most universities now implement and adapt with each new cohort to reflect the new challenges of each academic year, changes in teaching and learning practices and pastoral support. 

For students it comprises attractive marketing to entice them onto appropriate courses, and liaising with schools and colleges to engage students. It continues with enrolment and involves acceptance, registration, fee-paying, orientation, learning, evaluation and assessment, and finally graduation and alumni status. 

For educators it offers an opportunity to analyse, predict and plan, as well as improve retention rates, especially among first-year students. It allows them to consider what will motivate and conversely deter them, as well as welcoming them to the educational institution of their choice, create a healthy and challenging learning environment, and help them find a sense of belonging among their peers.

How is digital helping the SLE process?

Many universities now have SLE teams that use digital management systems to assist students in their university journey. The data that these systems provide allows them to manage solutions to problems that students may encounter such as identifying students who are at risk of dropping out and allowing early intervention, for example. They also assist university staff with real time information about students, provide effective communication in the student’s preferred method, allow automated responses to everyday enquiries and permit general notifications and third-party app data integration. 

What’s currently being done?

The University of Manchester’s Student Experience Programme (SEP) is a good example of how data is being used to transform services for students. The university aims to introduce improved processes that are ‘supported by new and upgraded technology’ to improve efficiency and consistency in the student experience. In addition, it hopes to support new staffing models and innovative methods of collaboration. 

It’s hoped that the university’s SEP will make services for students both more consistent and convenient by bringing more of what’s offered online, allowing personalised access and more convenient learning times. For staff, streamlined and simplified processes will allow more quality teaching and research time.  

The programme focuses on six key areas:

  • Wellbeing – supporting students who need any amount of intervention, reducing repetitive manual tasks for teaching staff, and encouraging the sharing and learning of good practice
  • Efficiency – by reducing the time spent on repetitive manual processes the UoM can increase time spent on teaching and support
  • Consistency – increasing the consistency of the learning experience, clarifying structures to improve networking opportunities and discovering what and where staff are achieving
  • Data – using data as an asset to predict student behaviour in order to pre-empt academic and wellbeing issues, to use data holistically to reduce duplication and to allow data-led decisions
  • Compliance – ensuring that students have control over the use of their data, and that staff are protected from non-compliance when using the data
  • Sustainability – encouraging flexible and agile staffing structures, cutting spending on out-dated systems and focusing on regular updates, and enhancing the UoM’s reputation as an educator of excellence and an employer of choice.

Student lifecycle experiences are now commonplace at universities around the UK, and demonstrate an innovative use of data and digital in order to improve student’s lives, from the moment they click on the website of a prospective university, to the day they graduate, and beyond. In doing so, universities are also enhancing the role of teaching professionals and their own valuable reputation around the world. 

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