Unit4 has announced their Student Management solution was selected by the University of Aberdeen to replace their existing systems. The University already uses Unit4 Business World Finance that replaced ABS E5 in 2013. The decision is part of a strategic plan highlighted in 2015 by Unit4 in their initial press release. It is an important win, especially with the recent announcement of Workday entering the market. Although it does seem to have taken a while for the University of Aberdeen to have made the decision. The solution will be hosted in the cloud on Azure using the Unit4 standard deployment.
How long to Implement?
What was surprising to here, was the length of time the project will take to implement. One might have expected the University to set a target date of the beginning of the next Academic year. However, when questioned they are taking the sensible phased approach. This will begin early in 2018 with enquiries and a pilot for admissions first.
Backing strategic initiatives
What the University of Aberdeen is clear about are the objectives of the project. They were unable to specify detailed KPI’s yet, but do see this decision as supporting their core mission statements. The two mission statements that it are relevant to are:
- To be one of the world’s top seats of teaching and learning, providing a standout personalised student experience of the highest quality in an international context.
- To build an integrated, collaborative and sustainable physical and digital infrastructure to underpin the University’s ambition.
In order to achieve the latter, they expect the Unit4 solution to deliver an improved experience for both enquirers and students. In improving the service, they hope to increase the number of applicants and improve student retention rates. The most recent retention rate found was 93.1% in 2006/2007 (Source Guardian), which was below average then. Measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of student operations may be harder to measure and might be the cause in being unable to provide hard KPI’s yet.
Professor Peter McGeorge, Vice-Principal for Learning and Teaching at the University of Aberdeen commented: “Unit4 Student Management will deliver a service to help the University stand out from other institutions. This new technology will enable potential and enrolled students to interact with timely, personalised information no matter where they are in the world. Their contact with the University will benefit from the same easy-to-use digital experience they get outside of University with social media and other retailers. By removing the burden of paper work, and delivering a digital experience, they can focus on learning. Additionally, University staff will have the tools they need to better understand and deliver student-focussed, personalised support.”
Decisions to make
The KPI’s are not the only decision the University has yet to make. The intention is also to use the solution to track and monitor alumni. Founded in 1495 the University has not yet decided how many of its many alumni to import into the new system. What systems these details will come from wasn’t revealed either. The project is not a small undertaking and the cautious approach that the University of Aberdeen seems to be taking might well be the correct one.
This deal sees Unit4 cement its relationship with the fifth oldest university in the UK. They will also look forward to 2018 when they can use this as a case study. Meanwhile, they can only hope that Workday does not develop faster implementation methodologies. Derren Nisbet, Managing Director of Unit4 UK&I commented “The University of Aberdeen is consistently ranked in the top one percent of the world’s higher education institutions and we are delighted they have chosen to extend their relationship with us. That such an important institution sets out ‘digital infrastructure’ as key to delivering its latest strategy, underlines the importance of communicating with students and staff on their terms. Digital is the new frontier in reputation for Higher Education.”
Like business the academic world needs to attract the modern generation. This means the development of operational solutions that interface with social media intrinsically. If the Unit4 can deliver a solution that meets the KPI’s that the University of Aberdeen determine. Then it may convince others to look at their solution.