Postgraduate applications can be a challenging and daunting experience – and not just for the students applying. For staff, processing applications during peak periods can result in mundane repetitive tasks leading staff to become increasingly frustrated. Furthermore, the number of postgraduate applications have been increasing, with the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) seeing a 116% increase in applications between November 2018 and November 2019 and a 70% increase for College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS). This means that staff are under greater pressure to process a growing number of applications in a suitable timeframe.
The system caused problems for students too. Applicants received misleading messages telling them to log in to the service every time the status of their application was updated. In some cases, applicants even received notification saying their application was complete, only to later have it rejected as it was, in fact, incomplete.
It is against this backdrop that a recent project aimed to address these issues with improvements to the postgraduate application process designed to better support staff and applicants. These changes centred on EUCLID, the University’s student records web portal. EUCLID is where direct admissions applications are submitted, processed, reviewed and finally, a decision made and communicated to applicants.
A crucial part of the project was its benefits-led approach – meaning that improvements for staff and applicants were the main focus throughout. To insure these benefits, the project took an agile management approach – interacting closely with service users, including face-to-face interaction. This helped to insure that the project benefits were fully realised, resulting in major improvements to the system for both groups.
By reducing processing times by up to 86% staff will save 805 hours of work annually – roughly 115 working days. With over one million pages now no longer required to be loaded, users will also experience faster loading times. Another improvement to help staff efficiency is the ability to reject in bulk for incomplete applications, rather than making tedious status changes to each application. For example, when 900 rejections needed to be processed due to incomplete documents in CAHSS, the process took 13 hours. This has now been reduced to 8 hours.
The user experience for applicants has also been greatly improved. Beyond faster loading times and improved service support, the improved system will now also only contact applicants when a decision has been made, more information is required or if there is important information requiring their attention. These improvements will not only reduce the number of messages sent between applicants and staff, but also help to create a more positive and less stressful service experience for applicants. This will reduce the risk to the University’s reputation, with fewer students complaining about their experience.
The many benefits of the project have been well received. Director of Postgraduate Admissions at CAHSS Rhona Hajcman commented “The improvements to the system are massively positive for Direct Admissions users across the University as well as improving the experience for applicants”, while CAHSS Admissions Officer Kirsten Hutchison noted that “Overall, these improvements have resulted in significant time savings and new functionality has allowed us to improve our processes”.
The project is part of the Student Systems Partnership, which is a collaboration between the University Secretary’s Group and Information Services Group, working within Student Experience Services.