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Improve your digital strategy, say 73% of students

Research into student administration shows universities need to deliver a better digital experience

Posted by Hannah Oakman | May 25, 2016 | Technology

Unit4, a leader in enterprise applications for service organisations, today released the findings of an independent multi-national research study into the student [1] digital experience around administration. 7 in 10 students would recommend that their university reviews and changes its digital strategy related to student administration. Around one third of students feel student administration systems do not meet their expectations, making them less likely to recommend the institution.

The research was designed to deliver insight on whether providing a great digital experience to university students gives institutions a competitive advantage. Specifically the goal was to measure students’ perceptions of their universities’ current digital offer for administration. The survey was conducted by DJS Research in March and April 2016 among more than 2,000 full time and part time students studying at university level in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Benelux, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. 

Student responses were fairly consistent across undergraduates and postgraduates and from country to country with no clear leader. Students want their universities to do a better job in digitising student administration and collaboration. Globally, 44% said that student admin is managed digitally ‘a little or not at all’ with more than one third (36%) stating that admin is so complex it means they spend less time studying. Almost half (47%) the respondents said they would expect administration to be easier to manage given the fees they pay.

The research also found that a lack of modern, digital solutions for student administration has a negative impact on the student’s perception of the university. 41% said they would have a better experience if they could interact more digitally and 41% would be more likely to recommend their university if digital interaction was better. A quarter of respondents think less of their university because their systems are poor.   

A third of students feel there is too much paperwork and get frustrated with the amount and complexity of admin. Students are currently least satisfied with managing financial aid, course transfers and communicating with faculty advisors. Managing academic progress and coursework, paying tuition and other institutional fees and admissions are also areas for improvement. 

“The survey findings support the concerns we hear from our customers. Typically, students, faculty and staff are faced with old fashioned, difficult to use systems in their campus life as the market for Student Information Systems (SIS) hasn’t seen real innovation for more than a decade. Currently-installed Student Information Systems are on average more than 13 years old,” said Jami Morshed, VP of the Global Center of Excellence for Education at Unit4. “This is why we’ve seen such demand for our new next-generation Student Management system as it’s simpler and more comprehensive than anything that’s gone before. Universities face growing competition for students. Those that embrace digital and deliver an experience similar to the device/app experience students live their lives by, will succeed above the rest.”

When asked what experience they would like to have, 87% of the students surveyed said they would like a single application accessible from any device to manage their entire university life. More than 8 out of 10 would be more satisfied if their university implemented a single digital system to manage all of their administration. Similarly 87% would find it useful to have an app that shows their current progress in their degree, a core component of helping students stay on track.    

The findings of the survey have been illustrated in an infographic.

For more information visit Unit4 at, or follow on Twitter via @Unit4global.

[1]Digital’ was defined to the students as administration through websites or apps (rather than via email), on their mobile, tablet, laptop or PC.

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