Are we still too reliant on paper-based systems?


28 May 2013

In a recent survey of HE staff conducted by Capita, 55% said that their institutions used paper-based processes to manage student applications.

This suggests that more remains to be done to ensure universities can respond to UCAS’ proposal for all of the two and a half million undergraduate applications they process to be managed completely online from 2014. 

Mark Harvey, UK sales manager from Capita’s further and higher education business, said: “Our survey has revealed that some universities are still heavily reliant on paper-based systems in the student recruitment process. Powerful management information systems can offer huge advantages in terms of cost savings and efficiencies. They can also help recruit the very best students by enabling universities to rapidly respond to direct applications, as well as enabling universities to plan better by providing up to the minute information on recruitment numbers. It is vital that universities use all the tools available to them to get the most out of their investment in this technology – from attracting learners or managing applications, to improving the student experience and maximising retention.”

Student numbers in the HE sector was another area explored in the survey. When asked to compare their student recruitment figures between 2012 and 2013, almost 70% of respondents said their 2013 application numbers were similar to or had increased from the previous year.

When asked to predict student numbers over the next two years, however, respondents gave a mixed picture, with 21% predicting an increase in applications to pre-2011 levels, 24% predicting a decline in applications and 55% expecting applications to remain roughly the same.

Results also showed that many HE institutions are planning to develop the use of mobile technology more widely over the next 12 months to improve the student  journey. More than three quarters of staff said that instant messaging was being introduced to keep students up to date with important information such as closures due to poor weather, 40% said they planned to make timetables accessible and 19% would enable students to make payments for accommodation, library fines and printing via an app.

Mark Harvey added: “The survey results show that uncertainty remains about which way the HE student recruitment figures will go in the near future, which is not totally unexpected given the quite extreme fluctuations we have seen in recent years.  But what is clear is that many universities are taking a proactive approach and broadening the development of technology, such as mobile apps. This is quite simple to do without major investment and will help ensure mobile technology supports institutions in attracting and retaining more students, as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategies.”  

Interestingly, when asked what factors had the greatest impact on HE student recruitment, staff who responded gave the following answers:

  • 65% said the cost of living
  • 48% selected the economic climate
  • 40% cited restrictions on student visas
  • 39% selected whether courses gave knowledge and skills relevant to the world of work.


For more information on Capita’s further and higher education business, suppliers of the UNIT-e student record management system, visit our UNIT-e page.