Higher Education institutions are facing mounting pressure in the face of issues such as Brexit and worries over declining student numbers – particularly the fall in lucrative international student applications.


Earlier this year I read that the total applicants to universities from prospective students in the UK, EU and further afield dropped for the first time since 2012. This highlights the need for higher educations to evolve if they are to attract new, and retain existing, students.


The key to this is offering personalised experiences, heeding examples of innovative digital deployments by other public-facing organisations.


Increasing efficiency with real-time data


I’m already seeing many universities embracing this approach, particularly when it comes to understanding the importance of gaining value and insight from data.


Newcastle University is a great example of this in practice. It has revamped the experience it provides to its 27,750 students both on campus and overseas by providing real-time access to and insight of data. The university has consequently consolidated its key business data across admissions, finance and more, providing one complete picture of student needs and activity across the organisation.


The results have been dramatic, with the university now able to instantaneously complete tasks that previously would take overnight, and answer business-critical queries – such as live updates on new student numbers against targets on clearing day – in less than a second.


This real-time insight into data has reduced waiting times for students and pushed internal efficiencies to new levels, helping the university better manage staff resources and offer a richer student experience.


Personalised learning


Going cloud-first is also a key step towards creating personalised experiences for each individual student and user. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) experienced this after was seeing its users express frustration at having to interact with inconsistent screens across various applications. Therefore MIT moved to the cloud to create a consistent user interface and common user experience. MIT will now be able to create apps for tasks such as managing open enrolment and graduate student assignments, which previously would run overnight but can now be completed instantly.


This consistent user experience has also allowed MIT to meet students’ mobile first demands. Many students now want to do everything on their phones and others prefer to use a tablet device, which means the institution’s systems need to be able to offer the capability of running on various browsers across multiple devices. This benefit means it can support applications on any device and easily integrate them with core SAP applications in the cloud – and ultimately means happy students.


Digital workplace preparation


Offering innovative digital services is not only vital to providing a good learning experience, but also preparing students for life after higher education. I think it’s therefore important for universities to place greater focus on offering intuitive experiences that prepare them for life in the workplace post-education.


Leading German university Technische Universität München is doing just that by providing a learning environment that demonstrates the impact of digital transformation on businesses. Now its students based all over the world can take advantage of real-time processes and big data analysis, helping develop their software skills and expertise using the latest tools and technologies.


Newcastle University, MIT and TUM are great examples of the difference that data analytics and digital services can make in delivering better education for all. Given the amount of competition and mounting political issues affecting universities, it is vital to ensure the best possible learning experience to attract prospective students and retain those already enrolled.


By embracing the benefits of digital technology, higher education institutions can now provide better, faster learning processes that are tailored to each students’ individual requirements.


To learn more about how SAP can help your university go digital click here.

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