Harlow College: Delivering data-driven excellence

16 July 2016

With a 94% success rate, Harlow College is the highest performing further education institution in England. In 2013, 100% of students achieved passes at A Level, including 52% A* to B and 90% A* to C grades.

To continue delivering this level of excellence, the college is committed to identifying and supporting those students who might be at risk of dropping out of their course before they have gained their qualification and those students who need extra assistance to help them achieve their potential. UNIT-e has been key to helping them target the right students.

Harlow College has used Capita’s UNIT-e management information system (MIS) for many years to record and store a wealth of information on staff and students. The system is accessed by administrative staff responsible for processing applications, enrolments, timetabling and managing exams; and crucially, also to the teaching team, providing them with the information they need to support students.

In 2012/13, it saw a 10% increase in applications, and student numbers are expected to continue growing. An important part of the institution’s success can be attributed to the individual attention teachers pay to encouraging the progress and achievement of all students.

Ben Nicholl, Director of Information Services at Harlow College, explains: "We aim to provide a personal experience for our students, every step of the way. One example of this is our Rescued Learners initiative, which is designed to highlight the small number of students who have left college mid-course or are at risk of leaving. The scheme seeks to re-engage them in their studies and offer additional support where it is needed to get them back in class.

We can be very creative with the methods we adopt to help these students...Whatever initiatives we use, Capita’s UNIT-e provides the information we need to intervene quickly."

Key benefits of UNIT-e for Harlow College:

  • Improve attendance and achievement by enabling teaching staff to monitor progress and target interventions
  • Enables staff to easily produce data required by Ofsted
  • Provides a central hub for the most up-to-date information to be made easily accessible to staff across the college
  • Supports the identification of students at risk of dropping out and helps staff track the success of interventions put in place to re-engage them in their education
  • Empowers individual tutors to improve success rates and retention figures for their course
  • Allows for greater transparency in funding allocations
  • Gives the college the tools it needs to manage the applications process online, saving time and money.

Download the Harlow College case study in full   

With UNIT-e, staff have easy access to a wealth of data on students’ learning progress in one place.They can monitor a student’s attendance or predicted grades and flag those at risk of not succeeding. This provides a clearer picture of how the student is doing and also helps staff identify those at risk of not completing their course or requiring extra support to gain their qualification.

The Rescued Learners programme feeds directly into the student success, achievement and retention figures used by Ofsted. Using UNIT-e, reports can be generated quickly and easily in the appropriate format and this helps to ensure the college’s performance remains a cut above the rest.

Simplifying the management of applications

The focus Harlow College places on the individual student begins the moment they submit their course application. In the 2013/14 academic year, UNIT-e played an important part in ensuring the smooth management and processing of all student applications.

Going online

"We were impressed that the system stood up to the strain of the extra applications we received", says Ben. "Storing student information centrally made it easy for staff to keep in contact with students as their details were always up-to-date."
 The college is planning to manage the whole application and enrolment process online from next year and UNIT-e will be at the heart of this.

"Managing paper-based applications and communicating with students by post can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive," says Ben, "Providing students with the ability to apply online will help us to cut costs, but more importantly, it will save hours of administration time as all the information we need can be entered by the student or uploaded online."

Moving the applications process online will improve the flow of information between the college and schools in the area too. This will enable documentation such as students’ exam results and school references to be managed electronically, saving time and helping to smooth their transfer from secondary into further education.

Greater transparency

Another advantage of using UNIT-e is that the college can enable teaching staff to update and scrutinise a wide range of data associated with their courses. "Tutors can view funding information and keep a check on the number of students who complete their courses," says Ben, "They can also see what grades students achieve in their qualifications, which helps them to keep track of retention and success rates throughout the year.

UNIT-e is incredibly flexible. It has provided us with an out-of-the-box system that we can customise easily to meet our needs."

"Our focus is ensuring that every one of our students studies the course that is right for them and that they get the support they need from the college to succeed. UNIT-e plays a vital role in enabling us to deliver this personal student experience year after year."
Ben Nicholl, Director of Information Services, Harlow College