Category Archives: Clients

Sheffield Hallam University logo

Beating space utilisation issues with Clocks

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) will become the UK’s first Classroom Occupancy System (Clocks) user when it deploys the pioneering space management solution later this year.  SHU has purchased Clocks to inform its 15-year Estates Development Framework, which is currently under development, and is reviewing both current space utilisation and future space requirements.

Donna Cooper, Space Resource Manager at SHU, said, “Space is an expensive resource and we have identified continued issues with staff prospectively booking rooms which they then don’t use; manual room audits and surveys tell us that this is the case.  But with each space audit taking five weeks, they are so time-consuming and expensive that we’ve actually stopped doing them.  Clocks will enable us to see both real-time room use and analyse room use over time – a semester or year.  We’ll be able to compare the data with planned use from Syllabus+ and schedule more appropriately.  It will give us much-needed data on how our spaces are actually being used versus their scheduled use, enabling us to optimise how we use our space.”

Donna and the Facilities & Estates Team will use Clocks data to drive new policy around space use at SHU and find new ways to optimise the use of space. They’ll be working closely with users to find improved ways of booking and managing space: “We’re an inner-city campus with growing demands on our space so we simply have to use what we have as efficiently as possible.”

As a long-term Syllabus+ Enterprise user, Clocks was the obvious choice: “We did look at alternative solutions, but anything else would have required a lot more work to integrate with Syllabus+ and we were impressed with the outcomes from Wageningen UR (the first Clocks users in the Netherlands).  Over time, it will be a lot more cost-effective than manual audits and have a host of other benefits.”

SHU will run a pilot implementation covering five buildings between October and December 2017.  If successful, they will roll it out across the campus in early 2018, with full use in the 2018/19 academic year.  For more information on Clocks, contact us.

Customer Stories: Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth University logo

Organisation and management of courses is a key driver for student satisfaction. Aberystwyth transformed its fortunes in this area with a little help from us.

With just a few days left for UK students to complete the 2017 National Student Survey, we thought we’d look back on one of last year’s biggest success stories.

Abersytwyth University opened in 1872 with a cohort of 26 students and three teaching staff.  Today, it has more than 10,000 students studying across its six academic Institutes.  The main campus of the University is situated on Penglais Hill, overlooking the town of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay, and comprises most of the University buildings, Arts Centre, Students’ Union, and many of the student residences.  The University boasts a number of famous alumni, including HRH Charles, Prince of Wales.

The Challenge

Aberystwyth took in an unusually large intake of students in 2011.  This placed considerable pressure on the university’s existing timetabling processes.  As a result, the 2012 National Student Survey (NSS) highlighted shortcomings in Aberystwyth’s organisation and management of courses.  Data collection was inconsistent, leading to availability clashes.  Lectures were scheduled by a central timetabling office into a subset of large classrooms; smaller rooms were ‘owned’ and managed by departments, making them invisible to the central scheduling team.  Furthermore, classes were ‘rolled over’ from the previous year, meaning that a big room which had once housed a big class might be allocated to a far smaller group – and vice-versa. This had led to inefficient use of teaching space.

The Solution

In 2013, Aberystwyth commissioned Scientia to undertake a Business Process Review.  Our recommendations led to a complete restructure of its timetabling and space management processes, including:

  • Making more rooms centrally owned and therefore available to the central Timetabling team;
  • Refining data collection methods to reduce staff and room availability clashes;
  • Implementing the auto-scheduling capability of Syllabus+ Enterprise, meaning classes would be appropriately scheduled according to room capacity; and
  • Creating a personalised timetable for each student.

The Outcome

With teaching space now largely centrally-owned, formerly ‘hidden’ spaces devolved to Faculties are now visible to the central Timetabling Team.  Combined with the auto-scheduling functionality in Syllabus+ Enterprise, Aberystwyth has been able to optimise its use of rooms and resources, significantly improving utilisation rates.

“Thanks to these changes, we now have the most efficient timetable possible.”
Tim Davies, Director of Information Services at Aberystwyth

“We’ve undergone a complete change in concept and culture.  Before, we scheduled classes with very little information available to us, meaning that we spent a lot of time after the production of the timetable making changes – a very labour-intensive process.  We reduced the number of ways for staff to give us their availability information and made the format consistent.  Having that information at the start of the process means far fewer changes once the timetable’s been produced.  Autoscheduling with Enterprise means we are optimising the available space and providing the best possible timetable for our staff and students each year,” said Tim.

Combined with other efforts to improve the student experience, Aberystwyth has once again put itself back at the top of the tables, achieving 92% in the 2016 NSS – 4th in the UK and 1st in Wales for overall satisfaction.  This 9% year-on-year rise was the second-biggest improvement for a mainstream university in 2016.  Satisfaction with the organisation and management of courses has also made a marked improvement.

“Successful Timetabling has played an important part in improving the student experience.”
Jackie Sayce, Institute Manager at Aberystwyth

Building on recent successes, Aberystwyth has recently launched its ApAber app, enabling students and staff to access their personalised timetables on the web and from mobile devices.  Amongst other things, they can also access their AberLearn virtual learning environment, see what public computers are available, check their attendance record, and find out how much money they have on their AberCard.

Download this customer story here.

Why we sponsor the Times Higher Education Awards

Recognising success in higher education is vital for a thriving sector, says James Grashoff, Head of Sales and Marketing EMEAA at Scientia.

Scientia presents the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology Award at the Times Higher Education Awards
James Grashoff, right, and Richard E Grant, second from right, present the Award for Outstanding Contriution to Innovation & Technology to staff from Nottingham Trent University

In November, I had the honour of presenting the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology Award at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards in London.  Widely recognised as the Oscars of the UK higher education sector, the THE Awards were set up to shine a spotlight on the very best that UK universities and colleges have to offer.  Award categories cover everything from Research Project of the Year to Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community – and all points in between.

This was Scientia’s third consecutive year of sponsoring the Awards.  Not only is it a unique opportunity to network with some of the most influential people in our sector, but over the years we have been able to invite many senior staff from the institutions we support to celebrate the nominees and winners with us.  In short, it’s a fantastic way to see the breadth and volume of exemplary work going on in UK universities today.

As a Company, we believe in recognising and celebrating the success of others in our field.  That’s why we chose to sponsor the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation & Technology category, won this year by Nottingham Trent University where Paul Evans, Professor of Applied Imaging Science, and colleagues have made huge strides in developing 3D X-ray scanning, which is helping to make airports and air travel safer across the world.  As someone with more than his fair share of air miles, I want to personally thank Paul and his team for their efforts.

Would it have been nice for a Scientia client to win the Award we sponsored?  Of course!  But it’s hard to be disappointed: a quick glance reveals that almost 60% of the shortlist and more than 40% of the winners are Scientia clients.  To know we are trusted by so many institutions at the top of their game is both humbling and extremely gratifying.  That trust is highly motivating as we get ever closer to the delivery of our next-generation timetabling solution, based on innovative Cloud technologies.

We were particularly thrilled to see Aberystwyth shortlisted in the Most Improved Student Experience category.  A lower-than-expected result in the Organisation and Management section of the 2012 UK National Student Survey was the catalyst for their journey of improvement.  In 2013, Aberystwyth commissioned Scientia to undertake a Business Process Review which led to a complete rethink of its timetabling and space management processes.  Teaching space is now largely centrally-owned, meaning that formerly ‘hidden’ spaces devolved to Faculties are now visible to the central Timetabling Team.  By using our software’s auto-scheduling functionality, Aberystwyth has been able to optimise its use of rooms and resources, significantly improving utilisation rates.  The result: Top 4 in the UK and 1st in Wales for overall Student Satisfaction.  Jackie Sayce, Institute Manager at Aberystwyth, was kind enough to acknowledge the role successful timetabling has played there in our 2016 White Paper.

Above all else, we are thrilled to have contributed to the £10,000 raised by the event for the Nightline charity – a student listening service run by students, for students.  Every night of term, student volunteers answer calls, emails, instant messages, texts and talk in person to their fellow university students about anything that’s troubling them.  At a time when 1 in 3 students experiences distress at night, it’s a vital service – and one very close to my own heart, as I was a student volunteer whilst studying at Lancaster University some 35 years ago

Well done to all the nominees and winner at the 2016 THE Awards.

Student satisfaction: its worth more than you think

Like it or not, tertiary education is becoming increasingly commodified.  Tuition fees have become more common as the higher education sector has grown in size and the funding required to sustain it has increased.  Some governments have decided that charging tuition fees is the only way to ease the financial pressure on the treasury (and to support students from less affluent backgrounds).  Advocates of tuition fees state this as a positive development: students buy a stake in their education and are accorded ’consumer’ status, with all the rights that brings.  Opponents have been fighting the commodification of education for years, with a recent study suggesting that students who see themselves as consumers, rather than learners, get lower grades.

Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for sure: with the average annual cost to the student reaching as much as £27,000, it’s no wonder that students’ expectations of their institutions are rising.  As an education provider, how do you know if you’re succeeding in meeting your students’ needs and giving them good value for money?  You ask them!  Or rather, the national independent funding body for higher education asks them.

SK123_RGB_LOGO_OCWIn the Netherlands, that body is Studiekeuze123 – a collaboration of the Ministry of Education, students and higher education institutions.  Its stated aim is to offer “independent, comprehensive and reliable information about all accredited programs at colleges and universities in [the] Netherlands.”  Its website – www.studiekeuze123.nl – is a one-stop shop for prospective students, helping them to select the right institution based on a huge amount of information – much of it collected from existing students via its annual survey, the Nationale Studente Enquête (NSE).  The NSE is a wide-ranging survey on the various aspects of the tertiary learning experience: the programme’s curriculum, acquired skills, career preparation, lecturers, information provided by the programme, study facilities, assessment, study workload, student guidance and, of course, timetables.

Hogeschool Zeeland
Hogeschool Zeeland, a Scientia client, is among the best in the Netherlands for the sixth year running

For the prospective student, there are few more credible sources of information than the lived experiences of existing students.  Performing well in the NSE has become central to a Dutch university’s appeal, with many using its outcomes as part of their marketing strategy – comparing themselves favourably with their academic rivals or boasting about improvements on the previous year’s scores.  Most importantly, the NSE is a key feedback tool for Dutch universities, enabling them to improve the academic experience for their current and future students.  And giving students the best experience possible is certainly in their interest: research shows that student satisfaction affects the entire student lifecycle, from retention to alumni giving.

Helping institutions to achieve their strategic goals is one of Scientia’s stated aims.  Two of the NSE questions are specifically about timetabling, and two about space management:

  • Is your timetable published on time?
  • Are timetable changes published on time?
  • Is there suitable study space?
  • Is there available work space?

So we had cause to celebrate when we analysed the NSE results this year:

  • on average, Dutch institutions which use our timetabling and resource management solutions equal or beat the national average in the categories related to timetabling and space management.
  • In the case of the Universities we support (as opposed to Hogeschools), they beat the averages significantly – by around half a point in most categories.
  • More compelling still is the difference between the average ‘non-Scientia’ institutions and those using our solutions: almost a full point in most cases, particularly on questions around timetabling.
Timetable published on time Timetable changes published on time Suitable study space Available work space
National Avarage 2.8 2.5 2.9 2.5
Scientia Uni Average 3.3 3.0 3.4 2.8
Scientia Hogeschools Average 2.8 2.6 3.0 2.6
Non Scientia 2.5 2.2 2.6 2.8

The take-home point here is simple: students at Dutch institutions which use our Enterprise Foundation timetabling suite are happier with their timetables than those which don’t.  Furthermore, those institutions are more able to make the right kind of study space available to their students.  This is the bit where we sit back and rest on our laurels, right?  Wrong.  We can do better.  You can do better.

We have a range of student-focussed solutions which could help you to better serve your future alumni (you know, the ones who in the US give almost $11bn a year to their former colleges): if you’re already using Enterprise Foundation for your timetabling, Publish enables you to send personalised timetables direct to your students’ phone, tablet or PC; Student Allocator empowers students to make choices of activities, modules and tutorials for themselves through any web browser; and you don’t even need to have Enterprise Foundation to implement our Resource Booker solution, which enables students and staff to make and manage their own room and resource bookings…

Congratulations to our Dutch clients for an outstanding performance in this year’s NSE.  Here’s to continuous improvement, no matter where you fall in the rankings.