With findings from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) revealing the dropout rate from UK higher education institutions has increased for the first time in four years, pressure on HE leaders has arguably, never been greater. Worrying statistics show that six percent of first degree entrants aged under 21, who enrolled in 2013-14, did not continue their studies beyond their first year, with the dropout rate among students from disadvantaged backgrounds found to be rising even more rapidly.
So what can leaders do to ensure they are reducing the risk, impact and cost of students dropping out? While the issue is becoming increasingly complex, with factors linked to demographics and opportunity continuing to play a significant role, new technology is becoming a strong ally for establishments in the dropout battle. Although many HE establishments already use real time data technology to map the quality and performance of new enrolments through attendance and progress, few are able to translate this data in order to identify those at risk of exiting their degree early. So, while colleges and universities can identify reduced attendance and progress, all too often, they struggle to understand the potential reasons why this may be happening.
Recent advances in technology are now enabling leaders to combine their existing data visualisation tools with interactive mapping. Geomapping provides critical new insights into demographic, enrolment and retention data, enabling users to quickly spot real time opportunities and threats, in order to improve their processes, performance and ultimately, revenue generation. For example, a reduction in attendance from students from a particular area would be identified by geographic visualisation, and with a little research, leaders could find that a popular bus route has been cancelled. By identifying the issue instantly, before it escalates, establishments can implement a strategy to counter the negative effects this may have, and ultimately retain those students. Colleges and universities can see, in real time, precisely which areas students are coming from, helping them to place students on the right courses at the correct campuses, ensuring their commute and therefore, attendance remains sustainable.
Capacity and resource is also a factor in student satisfaction, and by using geomapping, establishments can ensure they have the space and staff to accept students. If not, they can determine the need to put on extra courses, or indeed cancel a course should it not be attracting sufficient interest, ensuring their budgets are refined and focused at all times.
Geomapping provides critical new insights into demographic, enrolment and retention data, enabling users to quickly spot real time opportunities and threats, in order to improve their processes, performance and ultimately, revenue generation
As a result, they can better align their schemes, programmes, marketing and investments in the most important areas to ‘fill the gaps’ and ensure the best possible take-up of places. Arguably, colleges and universities can then deliver on demonstrated need, rather than predictions.
Highlighting those students who are chronically absent—identifying who they are and showing where they’re located on a map – attendance officers can determine the most problematic areas, and accurately predict the potential number of student dropouts for an academic year, enabling the department to intervene at the right time to help reduce it.
On a wider scale, geographical mapping also enables those colleges and universities with a large number of overseas students to track enrolment trends, status information, visa applications and CAS information through a single set of integrated dashboard reports, with the ability to drill down to underlying detailed information. It also ensures that marketing spend can be focused on the right locations abroad, based on where the students are coming from.
With a sharpened focus on attrition, retention and graduation, colleges and universities are looking for more effective ways to support student success. But even for institutions focused on retention, putting effective programmes in place is difficult. By exploiting technological advances in data visualisation, arguably establishments can now begin to reverse the dropout trend by implementing retention strategies instantly, before an issue hits crisis point.