Early Warning System Needed for Universities and Colleges to Protect Finances

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BQuSAMS announce that a system to improve finances for universities and colleges can be implemented from just £100 per month.

Dissatisfied and disenchanted students are far more likely to issue challenge to the marks awarded to them since the introduction of £9,000 fees, often using legal representation or demanding cash compensation, the recent Westminster Higher Education Forum was told.

In addition, students are increasingly looking for reasons to justify non-payment of their tuition fees, particularly if they find difficulties in achieving their educational objectives.

This confirms the view that the increased fee structure has cast students firmly in the role of customers who see themselves as having consumer rights more akin to buying goods in the local supermarket than the previously established relationship between students and their university.

Robin Dutton, director of quality systems at University College Birmingham, reported that academic assessment was now a “danger area” given the rising number of appeals submitted by students in the new era of higher fees.

He noted that more students were complaining about assessment issues at his own institution and anecdotal evidence that the same thing was happening at other institutions. Some of the students were requesting financial compensation in respect of their claims.

Mr Dutton went on to tell the conference that there has been an increase in students threatening to air their grievances in public, often making “unfounded statements” about individual staff members.

Ross Renton, dean of students at the University of Hertfordshire, reported that more students were seeking third-party help early in the complaints process, often from a friend or family member with a legal background.

Karen Stephenson, a partner in the education team at Weightmans, Solicitors identified a third strategy being used by students in this area, with increased use of the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) complaints process and legal actions were becoming more common.

Ms Stephenson, with 15 years’ experience as Course Director and University Secretary at London South Bank, said academic appeals had been used as a ploy for refusing to pay tuition fees.

“We are seeing a rise in students who are being chased for outstanding fees, who raise a complaint to help settle the fees situation,” she said.

Some common reasons used by students for not paying their fees include complaints about library opening hours, alleged favouritism by lecturers, “inappropriate behaviour” and “incorrect marks” amongst many others that she had encountered.

The increasingly litigious nature of student complaints confirmed the move towards a “transactional relationship” between students and their universities, which academics should recognise, she added.

Examples of contacts between staff and students that could prove costly in the long run include ad-hoc extensions to essay deadlines and informal conversations with students in corridors about work. These were unwise and could prove “costly” as universities were open to challenge from other students, Ms Stephenson said.

She recommended that there should be scheduled meetings with file notes, so that it was not possible for students to highlight any differentiation in the ways that they have been treated compared to others in their peer group.

An early warning system, indicating those students who are at risk of becoming disengaged, offers a very powerful solution.

Good Student Attendance Management Systems (SAMS) do exactly that, immediately highlighting students evidencing warning signs such as late and missed attendances at timetabled events, little or no time spent in the library and late or missed assignment submissions.

Staff can instantly communicate with a student through the system using SMS, email, telephone and/or letter, retaining records of all communications. They can start a dialogue towards solving student difficulties by implementing appropriate strategies to provide whatever additional support and encouragement (or stick and carrot) are necessary.

A good SAMS will instantly provide all data in an easy to read form, with full history and context of any missed or late event, without the need for processing and collating lots of data or trawling through an inordinate number of spreadsheets and registers just to find out the situation. The time that is saved can be used by staff to intervene on a focused basis where their efforts will make the biggest impact towards improving a particular student experience, where they are displaying signs of difficulty.

Many institutions use a combination of manual and electronic systems which means the same process can take several weeks, by which time the problem is likely to have become entrenched and therefore insoluble.

Successful institutions are taking a more proactive approach and using technology to flag up early warning signs of disengagement, so that staff can actively intervene early and make a big difference to reducing dropout rates.

Additionally, an effective Student Attendance Management System, which operates in real time, ensures that issues are identified proactively and quickly.

An effective Student Attendance Management System can deliver 4 key benefits for educational institutions:
1. Improved Student Experience by identifying ‘at-risk’ students in a timely manner
2. Increased revenues through improved student retention
3. Lower administrative costs
4. Tier 4 Licence compliance

BQuSAMS (Student Attendance Management System) is the leading cloud-based system available today. It is also the most cost effective, with systems starting from only £100 per month.

It ensures that users can easily implement their Student Attendance Policy, helping to improve attendance and engagement, improving the student experience and compliance with Tier 4 licence obligations in an efficient and cost effective manner.

BQuSAMS has the biggest range of data gathering options at the lowest prices and can match any institutions needs to a practical and effective system.

BQuSAMS are happy to discuss individual organisational needs and to match a system in both functionality and cost to our customer’s needs. For more information, visit http://www.bqutms.com/overview.

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Jacques de Cock
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