Transforming college admissions with UNIT-e

Neil Pratt, Head of Data Management at Gloucestershire College, explains how they have developed their use of UNIT-e to manage applications and admissions in one place to simplify the applications process for both staff and students.

Students come from the local community and overseas to study at Gloucestershire College. With its own construction workshops, engineering labs, hair and beauty salons, a theatre, recording studios, tennis courts and on-site restaurants, there are many study options to choose from. Offering both full and part-time courses, higher education, apprenticeships and accredited training for businesses, the college manages a complex admissions process.

A simpler way

Gloucestershire College had been running some admissions on Capita’s UNIT-e management information system, while others were administered on a separate IT system. This was not the most efficient way of working and did not offer an accurate picture of student numbers.

Neil explains; “The full-time further education courses used to go through one system, while the data for the other courses at the college were held on different spreadsheets. This meant there was no central overview of information, making it difficult for us to assess student numbers, manage applications efficiently, track the experience of applicants, and make decisions about which courses to run and where.”

Finding clarity

It was paramount that they simplified the application process for students too. “Many of our students typically apply online for multiple courses, with one being their first choice,” says Neil. “A student might apply for both level 2 and level 3 of the same subject, for example, so they have options in the event they don’t get the grades they expect.

“Under the old system, the college was unable to identify which course was the student’s first choice from the information available. So, if a student applied for four different courses, the college would have to invite them to enrol on each course separately, entering their information in full each time. “The student would then receive a separate letter from us relating to each course. This was something we needed to address.”

Duplicating work

Another challenge with the way courses were administered was that if a student applied for a full-time engineering course as well as an accountancy apprenticeship, two different teams would handle the applications.

“We had multiple teams with no visibility of overall applications,” says Neil. “This meant that one team would have to request information from another, adding to their workload and running the risk of important information falling through the gap. “What we needed was a central place for all our student and course data.

Improved experience

Gloucestershire College decided to develop its use of UNIT-e to manage applications and admissions in one place to simplify the applications process for both staff and students. “With all our online admissions now managed centrally in UNIT-e, we can ask students to indicate which of the courses they are applying for is their primary choice, at the point of application.

“This gives us a clear view of what the student is applying for. Staff can see the full history of each applicant, the progress of the application and all the communications relating to it, which we couldn’t do before. Our team can then send the students one letter, and invite them once for interview, saving time for staff and students.”

The reduction in administration means the team can spend more time speaking to prospective students, helping them with their applications and advising them on their course selection.

Rise in student applications

Having real-time data on online admissions is helping the college to ensure a positive experience for applicants and students, as Neil explains. “The move has saved hours of time for staff and resulted in a 30% increase in online applications since 2016. “We can see how long an applicant has spent at certain stages of the online admissions process and step in to help if a student is having difficulties completing the required information or seems unsure of which course to apply for. We can also see if a student who has visited the website is waiting for further information or an invitation for an interview, which helps move the process along.”

UNIT-e has also helped Gloucestershire College make the transition to digital communications. The college now mails out just one letter with a student’s offer, and all subsequent communications are managed by text and email. “Communicating in this way has made it easier for the college to maintain a dialogue with students as their courses progress,” says Neil. “The response to the new admissions system from students has been really positive and our 90% of online applications is testament to that.”