Circle Insights

Democratising student access and experiences

Marcus Le Brocq

As we have seen with the recent news around exams results, democratising student access to higher education is an important theme in the British educational landscape. With a skewwhiff government algorithm seemingly penalising students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a reworking of A-level results is underway to ensure a fairer grading process is implemented. Granting students fair access to education is one thing, but what happens to those students who are finishing their degrees and looking for work? What can higher education facilities do to democratise the employment prospects of students once they have completed their courses?

A survey by Prospects in May 2020 found that more than half of final year students have lost jobs or internships due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges and universities often work closely alongside prospective employers to deliver internship and employment opportunities, but could this process be opened up further to improve the employment outlook of students going forward?

As we’ve seen during the pandemic, technology is playing an increasingly central role in how we work and communicate. Where work calls are taking place on platforms such as Zoom, so are university lectures and seminars as institutions have scrambled to deliver their core services to their students.

The upshot of this is that the door to innovation within higher and further education facilities has well and truly been opened, with what seemed like an alien concept until very recently now the ‘new normal’. Furthermore, it is showing that the technology and innovation works, with students completing their studies online across the UK.

At the heart of this is the crucial focus on improving student outcomes. This is an emphasis that sits across the educational spectrum, from 0-25 years, to deliver the best possible education to everyone. Technology is playing a central role in this, helping schools, colleges and universities to link external factors and circumstances to each student’s journey in order to make the best possible provisions for them.

The SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) experience is a good example of this, with records being established early and shared across the student’s educational facilities. This information can be shared with further and higher education institutions as well, to assist them in appropriately catering for and focussing on that student’s outcomes.

The increasingly widespread use of technology is also making education more accessible for all. With courses, lectures and seminars available online, it removes some of the financial burden of having to live in a different city or even of having to pay for transport to and from college or university. This delivers a transparent and comparable student experience to all.

Crucial to the success of remote learning is communication. Students need to be able to access their tutors and course information easily and flexibly. With the student experience moving online, such access also needs to be available virtually, too, in order to establish regular contact and touchpoints to deliver an individual service to each student.

Having access to a student app is an increasingly popular way of opening up two-way communication between education facilities and their students. Creating a central hub for the student enables them to view things such as timetables and course registrations, as well as get in contact with their tutors.

By extending this functionality to prospective employers, further and higher education facilities can help generate awareness of employment opportunities for their students, too. This further helps colleges and universities to communicate with and provide an enhanced service to their students.

There is an opportunity to encourage collaboration and engagement between students, education facilities and employers that focusses on improving student outcomes. We’re seeing the potential that technology is unlocking in democratising the student experience, so it makes sense to extend this to employment opportunities, too.

For more information on how implementing a student app across your educational facility can help empower your students and their outcomes, please click here.

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Marcus Le Brocq