Tag Archives: timetabling

Picture of ASPRG 2016 - its 21st birthday

ASPRG: it’s so much more than a hard-to-decipher acronym

The Australasian Syllabus Plus Reference Group (ASPRG) Conference is upon us once more. Staff on both sides of the equator are gearing up to ensure that their contribution is worthy of this excellent user-led event, says Richie Teh, Regional Manager ANZ.

And it is truly user-led: unlike Scientia’s EMEAA User Conference, which is organised by the Company (albeit with the generous support of a user steering committee), ASPRG is independently-organised; we are merely invited guests!

ASPRG started life as a peer-support network for Scientia software users based in Australia. Now in its 22nd year, the Group has grown from just a handful of universities to more than 95% of all universities in ANZ. Hosted by a different institution each year, its annual gathering shows that, even in the modern era of easy remote communication, nothing beats a physical get-together for sharing innovation and best practice with our solutions. It’s also an opportunity for fellow Timetablers to swap stories from the scheduling frontline – “a three-day therapy session,” according to a colleague!

This year, ASPRG is generously hosted by the University of Queensland (UQ) at its St Lucia Campus in Brisbane. A Scientia client for more than 5 years, UQ is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions with over 51,000 students. Over three days, Scientia software users will get to hear insightful user presentations about how our solutions deliver measurable benefit ‘on the ground’ – interwoven with the latest company and product developments from the Scientia team. I’m really looking forward to the user presentations; hearing about the unique ways each institution uses our software drives innovation and progress within the Company.

On a personal level, I’m also excited about my session on Clocks – short for Classroom Occupancy System. Developed by our Dutch partners, Lone Rooftop, Clocks utilises their Position Intelligence Engine (PIE) to calculate the position of people inside a building, primarily using existing WiFi networks. It’s a huge leap forward in space management on campus. We’ve just had our first Clocks order in the UK and I’m sure clients in ANZ will be excited to hear about the myriad benefits of real-time space utilisation and powerful reporting.

With Syllabus+ Anywhere just around the corner, I’m sure much discussion will be focussed on the opportunities our new Cloud-based scheduling solution will bring. Flexible, scalable, performant and secure, Syllabus+ Anywhere is going to move timetabling from a necessary service to a valuable strategic resource in tertiary institutions. I’m thrilled that both Darren Woodward and Duncan Corbett from Scientia’s Product Management team are coming over to present the latest developments with the software. I hope this shows clients in APAC how committed we are to delivering and supporting a new solution which works for everyone. I hope to see you there!

Richie


See the 2017 ASPRG Conference Agenda.

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.

Day one of the Scientia User Conference

The Importance of Scheduling for Student Satisfaction

The importance of student satisfaction has grown in line with tuition fees and competition from a global higher education marketplace.  It’s always mattered, but in the era of big student debt and funding predicated on performance, it’s now a key strategic aim for most institutions.  That’s why we chose it as the focus of our 2016 White Paper, and also why it became the theme for our 2017 EMEAA User Conference.  How students feel about their institution is influenced by numerous factors: the quality of teaching; access to learning resources; and examination and assessment, to name but a few.  Users of our software are particularly concerned with the impact good course organisation and management can have on student satisfaction.

Timetabling and Student Satisfaction

Timetabling is a niche part of academic administration, and our software is a niche product designed with and for that sector.  With such specialist knowledge and implementations specific to their institution, Timetablers tend to change job relatively infrequently.  That means we get many of the same people coming to Conference year after year, cementing the enduring relationships we have with our customers which go way beyond the usual provider-client transaction.  It’s a partnership in every sense of the word.  So the Wednesday morning of Conference is all about welcoming old friends – and making new ones – before we get down to business.


Darren Woodward at the Scientia User Conference 2017We kicked off after lunch with a high-level session on Syllabus+ Anywhere – our forthcoming Cloud-based scheduling solution.  This was Darren Woodward‘s fourth EMEAA User Conference, but the first since he ‘moved to the Dark Side’, as his former colleagues from Auckland put it.  Our poacher-turned-gamekeeper delivered a great session which looked at the features, benefits and roadmap for the solution.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for us and that came over in Darren’s presentation.  He focussed on how Syllabus+ Anywhere moves timetabling from a required back office function to an embedded service within an institution, able to help with everything from change management to capacity planning in Estates.  This new core solution will encompass much of the functionality currently covered by a number of our current products, not least data collection – the vital first piece in the scheduling puzzle.

Darren touched on some research which shows the connection between self-service and student satisfaction.  Enabling students and staff to do everything from module selection to ad-hoc room and resource booking is proven to increase productivity, efficiency and satisfaction.  The timetable is no longer something which is done to them, but done by them and for them.  Solutions such as Resource Booker, Publish and Enterprise Activity Adjuster already deliver this.

Getting User Experience (UX) right is absolutely key with Syllabus+ Anywhere.  To these ends, we have partnered with Isle Interactive who focus exclusively on UX and have an impressive and diverse roster of clients, including Cambridge Education Group and Muse.

Making a big place seem small: developing an ‘academic identity’

Dr Ben Calvert, USW, student satisfactionNext up was a keynote from Dr Ben Calvert, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience at the University of South Wales (USW).  Ben’s insightful talk addressed the disconnect between academic pedagogies and processes, and asked: Are we all looking through the same lens?  Ben suggested that student satisfaction could be improved by joining up the dots between academic planning and university administration – not least by considering the timetable earlier in the course design process; the space in which we learn can have a profound impact upon that learning, and yet it is rarely considered during the course design phase.

USW have used Trendence to turn student data into actionable insights.  They discovered that many of their students struggled to find their place at university.  They did not identify as ‘academic’ and therefore had low expectations of their university outcome and future prospects.  USW implemented some changes to help them develop their ‘academic identity’ and make a big place – the university campus – seem smaller and less daunting.  One major change was to reduce the number of course modules.  Reducing the academic complexity meant they weren’t so overwhelmed by choice; it also gave them a more focussed programme of study, which helped to develop their academic identity.  The relevancy for our delegates was that a reduction in course modules makes it easier to create a good quality, coherent timetable.

Self-service: a driver for stakeholder satisfaction

SUC17_hkhThe excellent session on Enterprise Activity Adjuster (EAA), by Hull University’s Helen Kirby-Hawkins, took staff satisfaction as its starting point.  Hull had an interesting problem: if its tutors were unsatisfied with their scheduled classroom, they would simply book themselves an alternative using our Web Room Booking software – without cancelling the scheduled room!  This led to a chronic waste and shortage of space.  Hull’s solution was to implement EAA, enabling staff to make changes to the timetable themselves.

Initially, 30 tutors were given access and the ability to change any element of the scheduled session: day, time, room, teaching staff.  Uptake was great and feedback from staff was very positive: they felt empowered and valued for having control of their timetable beyond the data collection period – some months before the course delivery.

But what effect did changes to the published timetable have on student satisfaction?  Attendance data and feedback showed that they didn’t mind about room or staff changes, even at relatively short notice.  In fact, students were frequently happy that their tutor had moved the session to a ‘better’ room.  What they did mind were changes to the scheduled day and time – particularly if a lecture was being moved forward to earlier in the day.  With this insight, Helen and her team were able to limit the changes staff could make in EAA.

Questions from the floor centered on notification of frequent timetable changes.  Helen acknowledged that the number of changes had increased from 1,800 to 2,500 a year since EAA was rolled out.  Even a few years ago, promptly notifying students of this many changes would have been impossible.  But these days, she said, students tend to live week to week, constantly checking their academic calendar – updated from Syllabus+ throughout the day – on their mobile device or computer.  So despite the frequency of changes, students judged the timetable to be better overall.

Syllabus+ Anywhere: ambitious, agile, incremental

Mark Dickens, ScientiaThe final plenary of the day was a more technical look at Syllabus+ Anywhere – the stuff ‘under the hood’ – and how Scientia is gearing up to meet the challenges and opportunities it brings.  It’s a big and ambitious project, but thanks to a high-level of customer engagement and an Agile approach to development, we know we’re getting it right as we go.  There won’t be an Apple-style ‘big reveal’, as customers are so involved with the development process.  Despite that, we hope there will be a few pleasant surprises once they start using it later this year.


The day ended with dinner, the forging of new friendships, and the now-famous Dinesh Vaswani Memorial Quiz, named after a former Scientia colleague.  This year, we asked those present to donate their spare change in support of Jimmy’s Cambridge, a local homelessness charity.  Attendees generously gave £285, which Scientia has matched, meaning that Jimmy’s will receive £570 in total.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone for their contribution.

Winning Quiz team photo
Victorious Celts – the winning team at this year’s Conference Quiz

More insights and photos from our 2017 EMEAA User Conference soon!

Introducing Syllabus+ Anywhere

What’s in a name? For us, everything, says Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia

Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at ScientiaWhat is a technology year worth in human years?  Can we apply the same 1:7 ratio we do to calculate ‘dog years’?  At approaching 30 years old, Syllabus+, our core scheduling software, should be pushing up the daisies by now.  And yet it’s not.  Hundreds of iterations on from its launch, Syllabus+ still gets a lot right, which is why it’s the number one choice for academic scheduling worldwide.  That’s why many of our clients have been with us almost as long as Scientia has existed.  Syllabus+ is also Scientia’s most-recognised brand.  For a company which is known as Cyon across half the world, that’s important.

The recognition and trust in the Syllabus+ name is the reason we’ve retained it for our forthcoming solution.  But that’s about the only thing we’ve retained.  Syllabus+ Anywhere is a completely new system, built on leading-edge technology and free from the constraints of a legacy system – but underpinned by the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through its forebear’s faithful service.

Communication: the foundation of healthy relationships

This is the most fundamental change Scientia has made in almost 30 years of business.  We knew that this was not a journey we could take without major input from our customers.  Product development at Scientia has always been collaborative and based on actual need, not perceived need.  But as our client base has grown to some 450 institutions worldwide, we’ve sometimes found it a challenge to maintain the levels of communication which are easier for smaller organisations.  As a former customer, I know how frustrating that can be.

As the saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  You told us, we listened, and we’ve worked hard to improve communication and feedback opportunities for customers.  In the past year alone, we have:

  • Launched Idea Manager, a platform which enables customers to influence our development focus by voting for candidate features. These candidates are themselves derived from client requests and suggestions.  The first voted-for features will be implemented in the forthcoming 3.14 release of Syllabus+ Enterprise;
  • Surveyed users to discover what functionality they most use in our current solutions, resulting in more than 75 individual use cases which will feed into the development of Syllabus+ Anywhere;
  • Run detailed User Journey Mapping sessions at client institutions, enabling us to drill down into the requirements of different roles at an institution; and
  • Launched a simplified Customer Satisfaction Survey, making it easier for users to tell us when we get it right – or wrong.

This is on top of ongoing customer support activities, which include:

  • A dedicated Account Manager;
  • Our Customer Support Portal with ‘Knowledge Base’ – solutions to more than 400 real-world Service Desk queries;
  • Free monthly Webinars, enabling customers to keep abreast of the latest developments in our software; and
  • International Conferences and User Groups, providing much-needed ‘group hug’ opportunities for the tortured souls in the unique world of academic timetabling.

Joining the dots with Syllabus+ Anywhere

From our earliest days, we have had to ensure effective data transfers within Scientia’s scheduling suite and between third party applications.  As we have shown with Connect, integrating Syllabus+ with applications such as student records systems is both achievable and beneficial.  But our suite of distinct ‘boxed’ products has led to what could be seen as a disjointed offer.  All that ends with Syllabus+ Anywhere.  The micro-services architecture enables us to provide a scalable offer with the flexibility to pick only the elements you need from a holistic solution, with effective interoperability with other enterprise solutions baked in.

One thing clients have been keen to discuss is the process of migration from the current system to the new one.  We will help each customer to create an individualised migration plan.  When all of the functions currently covered by Enterprise are fully supported by Syllabus+ Anywhere so that any customer could choose to migrate, we guarantee that we will continue to support the products being replaced for a further two years.  We will make an announcement to that effect when we reach that point in development.

At the end of that two-year period the legacy software will continue to run indefinitely, and you will still own a perpetual licence to use it.  All that changes is that Scientia will cease to devote development resource to the legacy products.  But looking at what Syllabus+ Anywhere delivers from a customer point of view, institutions are going to see the benefits of migrating to the new system as soon as they can – and we’re going to make it a no-brainer to do that.

Beyond the back office

By providing powerful reporting functions, timetabling moves from a required ‘back office’ service to a valuable strategic resource for any institution.  For example, accurately predicting your institution’s future space needs will be easier than ever with Syllabus+ Anywhere.

More than ever, the university timetable is visible and accessible by students, staff and faculties.  Self-service selection of study modules, booking rooms and resources, integrating lecture or teaching timetables with your personal calendar: all possible from any web browser on any connected device.  Our software has the ability to powerfully represent the student voice in the scheduling mix; maximising this to enhance student experience and engagement is yet another way of activating the strategic value of timetabling services.  This is particularly pertinent in the UK, where university funding is now partly dependent on student satisfaction outcomes.

Right now, I’m looking forward to sharing the progress we’ve made with customers coming to the Scientia User Conference this week.  Hope to see you there!

Darren

Across the pond and over the desk: Introducing Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia Ltd

Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia
Two weeks in – still smiling!

Academic timetabling’s one of those curious professions: almost no one outside of it knows exactly what it is or what it entails – and that goes for other university staff, too. The flip side of this coin is that those in the profession get to know each other very well – particularly those in the Scientia family, facilitated by the Company’s range of excellent user events and virtual networking opportunities.

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve recently made the leap from Scientia client to employee, joining as Head of Product Management. With our Product and Development teams based in the UK, I’ve also relocated here from New Zealand. Having spent the past 16 years in a range of strategic roles at the University of Auckland, a long-term Scientia client, it’s fair to say I was a pretty well-known face on the Asia Pacific (APAC) scheduling scene. So whilst I’ve been to a few of Scientia’s European User Conferences and met some ‘local’ Timetablers, my name isn’t exactly synonymous with Scientia beyond APAC. That’s something I hope to quickly change, and I’ll be drawing heavily on my experiences as a client to shape how we do things – and not just from a product perspective.

As with most big career changes, the decision to jump wasn’t a single issue thing. Suffice it to say that I was ready for a new challenge just as Scientia was tooling up for the biggest change in its near-30-year history: the development of a brand new, Cloud-based scheduling solution. Let’s be honest: Cloud services are hardly innovative these days. Nonetheless, the benefits for our clients of moving to a Cloud-based, service delivery model are compelling:

  • Flexibility: the ability to scale up (or down) with ease, without further investment in hardware or space
  • Automatic software updates: the latest releases installed remotely by the expert service provider
  • A lower total cost of ownership: users save on hardware costs/upgrades and on-premise consultancy time
  • Reclaimed space: in some cases, entire rooms which were once full of server racks can be repurposed
  • Access from anywhere: with flexible working practices becoming more common, the ability to access business-critical data from anywhere is vital

What piqued my interest were the opportunities for the next generation of Syllabus Plus – whatever it’s ultimately called. Being part of this development and seeing how much work has already occurred is, frankly, thrilling. The new architecture and design approach will see the delivery of a range of innovative new solutions, with a huge capacity for rapid responsiveness to an ever-changing tertiary market.

But that is really the mechanics under the hood. What I am most looking forward to is being part of a team which will deliver a whole new level of functionality, visibility, interoperability and usability to its existing and future customers. This is where my experience lines up with Scientia’s vision: moving the traditionally ‘back office’ functions of timetabling to a core strategic service within the university. Everything from planning capital building programmes to academic delivery modelling can benefit from timetable data. Combined with powerful integration and reporting tools, our vision is for a complete planning and scheduling solution which goes way beyond putting students and staff in a room together. Now that’s exciting to me and is something I wanted to be a part of.

Moving from Scientia client to employee gives me the ability to see things from a customer perspective, and that’s how I intend to operate: as our customers’ champion and conduit; a channel to make their voice heard in the ongoing development of our current and future solutions. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Scientia family, and I’ll be sharing further thoughts as I get my feet well and truly under the desk.

About Darren

After graduating with an Art History and Politics Degree, Darren spent the following 10 years working in the corporate sector, primarily as an Account Manager with Apple Education, before entering the tertiary education sector.  Originally entering the Auckland College of Education prior to its amalgamation with the University of Auckland, he was involved in special projects, data analysis and strategic reporting before being seconded onto the Automated Timetabling Project in 2009 as Modelling Analysis to support the implementation of Scientia’s Syllabus Plus Enterprise solution.

Having been appointed the Manager of Timetabling Services in 2010, that service merged with the Examinations Office to form the Examinations and Timetabling Office, supporting both academic and exam scheduling.   A focus that Darren brought to the role was to move the ‘back office’ functions of timetabling to a core strategic service within the University, consulted with on future major capital works building programmes and academic delivery options.  During this time he continued studying, completing a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration on Information Systems.  He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree.

Darren joined Scientia as Head of Product Management in January 2017.

Ten Reasons to Come to the 2017 Scientia User Conference

The 2017 Scientia User Conference is rapidly approaching and tickets are selling fast.  If your finger’s still hovering over the ‘book’ button, here are our Top 10 reasons to come:

  1. It’s the largest annual gathering of Scientia software users anywhere in the world

    Network with around 200 colleagues from across the EMEAA region involved with timetabling and resource optimisation.  You are guaranteed to come away with valuable information and insights which you won’t get anywhere else.

  2. Learn about the latest developments in our next-generation Cloud scheduling solution

    The 2017 Conference marks one year since our announcement that we will deliver a new, Cloud-based solution for planning and scheduling.  We’ll be sharing our progress to date, including outcomes from our recent work with customers that is helping us to target our development effort effectively.

  3. 20+ user-led presentations

    There’s no better way to learn about the many and innovative ways our software can be used than from users themselves.  That’s why we dedicate as much of the Conference as possible to user presentations.  Some are presentations, some are participative workshops, but all will add value to your own use of our solutions.

  4. Scientia product updates

    Find out what our products can do right now – and what’s coming up in future releases – direct from our Product Managers.  We will be updating many of our product ‘features and benefits’ brochures and previewing them at the Conference.

  5. Free time with our Consultants

    Even in a highly-connected world, there is still nothing like being face to face with colleagues for Getting Stuff Done.  As a customer, you will be used to seeing your Account Manager regularly, but the opportunity to grab some free time with our experienced Consultants is invaluable.

  6. Make your voice heard

    As a Company, we are always keen to hear from our customers – especially now that our exciting new development work is underway.  The User Conference is a further opportunity for you to tell us what you want from our forthcoming solution.  Your comments in open sessions as well as conversations directly with Product Managers all feed in to the development process.  This year’s Conference will include a new feature: a formal opportunity for you to record the task you would most like to see improved, as well as your ideas on the best way to do that.

  7. Keynote addresses by leading industry experts

    Not one, not two but three keynotes which touch on the theme of student satisfaction, its importance, and the role that intelligent scheduling can play in improving it.  See the session overviews at conference.scientia.com.

  8. Meet Scientia’s technology partners

    We’ve always believed we can deliver more for our customers by working with others to develop our offer.  Many of you will know of Scope4mation, originators of our Connect integration tool.  They will be back this year alongside Lone Rooftop, our newest partners, whose ‘building intelligence’ solutions spell and end to under-utilised space and unnecessary build projects.

  9. The famous Scientia hospitality!

    We ease you into the conference on Wednesday with lunch and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues old and new.  Following the afternoon sessions, you’ll be rewarded with a great informal supper and our now-famous (or infamous) quiz!  From the sublime to the ridiculous, quizmaster Mark Everitt will confound and surprise you with a range of questions to test even the most seasoned pub-quizzer.  Points mean prizes, so choose your table carefully!

    The Thursday of Conference is always the biggie: a full-on day of keynotes, elective sessions and networking.  So the evening is all about fun!  We start with a pre-dinner drinks reception followed by a formal table-service dinner, and end up in the adjoining bar which will be transformed into our very own arcade with driving games, table football and numerous other entertainments.

  10. Amazing value

    We believe that the Scientia User Conference presents amazing value for money.  Two full days and nights of professional development, networking, consultancy, accommodation, food and entertainment for a little over £500.

Click here for the Conference schedule and to book you place today.  See photos from last year’s Conference.

The Importance of Timetabling for Student Satisfaction

Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the UK National Student Survey uncovers four key areas that relate to the success of universities.

Scientia White Paper 2016As we close the door on 2016 and our clients and their students shut down for Christmas, a time of reflection begins.  In our case, this reflection looks back a bit further – ten years, in fact – as we aim to gain insight into the successes and failures of institutions through our analysis of UK National Student Survey data.

Our latest piece of research, a White Paper entitled Placing the Student at the Heart of Higher Education, sheds light on the importance of timetabling and resource scheduling in the fee-paying era.

Since the introduction of student fees in 1998, higher education has become an increasingly commercial entity. From 2017, some UK students will spend in excess of £9,000 a year on tuition fees. This makes it imperative for institutions to rank student satisfaction alongside academic excellence to ensure future success in both attracting and retaining their ‘customers’. Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the National Student Survey has uncovered four key findings that relate to the success of universities.

Satisfaction with organisation and management of university courses is improving

In line with the new challenges of the consumer-focused era, universities are seeking to improve their satisfaction scores by updating and improving their administration systems. In the past five years, university students who strongly agree that their course is well managed and organised has increased by five percent. Indeed, updates to administrative systems have also improved the number of students who agree their timetable is working effectively, with over 75% of respondents agreeing with this statement. In line with this, 78% of students agree and 40% strongly agree that changes to their course or teaching are communicated effectively.

The increasingly tech-focused lives students are living mean that they are more connected now than ever. Scientia’s solutions including Enterprise Foundation – its core timetabling suite – and Scientia Publish improve the student experience by keeping universities up to date with the latest technologies and systems.

Scientia’s clients come out on top in the National Student Survey

In the list of 22 institutions scoring a student satisfaction level of over 90%, 12 of Scientia’s clients featured. Students at these institutions reported an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers at universities that do not use Scientia’s solutions. Aberystwyth, for instance, charted the second biggest improvement this year, reaching the top 10 with an overall satisfaction score of 92%, up 9% on 2015.

Looking specifically at the Organisation and Management questions over 10 years, Scientia’s clients fill seven of the top 10 positions, showing just how important a successful timetabling and resource scheduling system is in improving the performance of higher education institutions.

To find out more about the success of our clients and solutions, please read our other blog, Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey.

Organisation satisfaction varies across the country

With different organisational challenges that need to be overcome, the Organisation and Management results of institutions varied dramatically. Breaking the results down into regions, Northern Ireland came out on top with a satisfaction score of over 80%, whereas London brought up the rear with a score 7% lower. London’s challenges may be exacerbated as universities based in the capital tend to have split campuses, limited spare capacity for room scheduling as well as the fact that lecturers and students alike have to commute to and between the sites.

In the North West, universities are likewise split across the urban regions of Merseyside and Greater Manchester with similar complexities. At the other end of the spectrum, the East Midlands universities such as the University of Nottingham have sizeable campuses and good transport links.

Organisation satisfaction varies between subjects

Much to our surprise, History and Philosophy top the list of subjects that students “strongly agree” are well organised and managed, with Business and Engineering coming middle of the pack and Medicine bringing up the rear. With its complicated and varied schedules, Medicine will benefit most from a centralized timetabling approach. Scientia has been able to dramatically improve the organisation of complex schedules at the School of Health Sciences at City University, London, after the organisation adopted our centralised timetabling system.

Conclusion

In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts. As has been demonstrated – and much to our expectation and satisfaction – Scientia’s solutions are at the forefront of delivering successful organisational and timetabling solutions to higher education institutions, improving our clients’ standings in the National Student Survey. Our student-focused solutions help our clients to deliver the best educational experience with the latest technologies to ensure future success.

Darren Woodward appointed Head of Product Management at Scientia

Darren presenting at the EMEAA Scientia User Conference 2016
Darren presenting at the EMEAA Scientia User Conference 2016

Since the start of 2016, Scientia has been undergoing strategic restructuring to prepare for the shift in its focus from software products to software services. We are thrilled to announce that Darren Woodward, currently Examinations & Timetable Services Manager at The University of Auckland, will be joining us as Head of Product Management from January 2017.

Those who have met or worked with Darren will agree that he is perfect for this key role. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest university with over 40,000 students and some 5,000 full-time staff. It is the only New Zealand university ranked in the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Since joining in 2004, Darren has built up an exemplary scheduling team from scratch and has driven a programme of positive change – not least its paradigm shift to centralised timetabling.

He has long been an advocate for Scientia’s solutions – particularly Enterprise, of which Auckland was an early adopter. His broader experience includes being Chair of the Asia/Pacific Syllabus Plus Reference Group (ASPRG), and he has regularly attended our EMEAA Conference to discuss his experiences of using our solutions.

Darren is well aware of the demands and pressures of timetabling in a complex, pressured environment. He brings a great deal of knowledge and empathy, ensuring that Scientia continues to put the needs of its users at the heart of its operations. Darren will be leading us on our journey towards a Cloud-based scheduling solution, building on the significant progress we have already made.

Andrew Lau
Director of Scientia Ltd
For and on behalf of Scientia’s Executive Committee

Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey

UK student satisfaction at an all-time high

It’s that time of year again in the UK when students’ views about their institutions are published, analysed, and pored-over. On Wednesday, the results of the National Student Satisfaction Survey were released. Since its inception 11 years ago, over 2.5 million final-year undergraduates have taken part in the survey, organised by HEFCE, which consists of 23 questions spread across categories including teaching, assessment, academic support and – of particular interest to us – organisation and management, including the quality of the timetable and notification of changes. Here’s a nice infographic from the HEFCE website which shows its reach and engagement:UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

First things first: well done to all the participating institutions;  86% of the 300,000+ students who responded said that they were satisfied with their course, the same as the all-time high recorded in the 2014 and 2015 results. How to interpret this stellar result in the £9k-a-year fee era? It’s likely that universities realise they must work extra-hard to make the cost of an undergraduate degree seem worthwhile. In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts.

But the real question on our mind was this: how did the institutions using our timetabling and resource-management solutions fare? A quick glance at the top 20 on the THE website revealed that no fewer than eight (40%) of our clients feature. Better still, The University of Law takes joint first place with a whopping 97% satisfaction score. Clients Keele and St Andrews share joint fourth place with 94%, and Aberystwyth squeaks into the top 10 with an admirable score of 92%, up no less than 9 points on their 2015 score – the second-biggest improvement of any institution this year.

Further down the table, Exeter, Lancaster, Dundee and Bath all put in a strong performance at 90% satisfaction or above. All in all, a fantastic result for some of our clients. But how much of their success can we attribute to the organisation and management of the courses – something our solutions directly influence?

The importance of the timetable in student satisfaction

The organisation and management section consists of three statements:

  • The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned
  • Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively
  • The course is well organised and running smoothly

We analysed the results from ten years of data and found some very interesting insights. We’re thrilled to report that Scientia’s clients filled seven of the top ten slots (70%) relating to organisation and management, and that the students attending institutions where our scheduling software is used report an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers.

Scientia-Top10-Satisfied with organisation and management_70%

Going deeper, if we analyse the results regionally we see a large difference. Northern Ireland’s institutions lead the way with their organisation and management results, whereas the London institutions have the worst showing. That’s important data for us, and something to address with existing and future clients.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

We are delighted to see continued improvement in universities’ organisation and management over the past ten years. As the chart below shows, 2016 is the best-ever for satisfaction.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

Announcing Scientia’s partnership with AMBA

In the brilliant company of AMBA – ensuring excellence at the world’s top Business Schools

There was a real buzz at our office in Cambridge last Wednesday morning as we eagerly awaited the arrival of Andrew Main Wilson, Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and colleagues.  They were visiting to sign off on a landmark partnership, 12-months in the making, that will help Scientia to better understand the global Business School market, enabling us to respond to the unique timetabling challenges which those Schools face.  In doing so, we hope to transform how Business Schools meet their specific scheduling needs.

Scientia's partnership with AMBA aims to improve scheduling at Business Schools worldwide
Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s CEO (left), and James Grashoff, Scientia’s Head of Sales & Marketing EMEAA, sign the partnership agreement.

Not all MBAs are created equal

You may not have heard of AMBA, but you will almost certainly have heard of MBAs: the Master of Business Administration, a postgraduate degree which is widely held to be the essential foundation for a successful business management career.  But there are MBAs, and then there are AMBA-accredited MBAs: rigorous assessment ensures that only the highest calibre MBA programmes which demonstrate the best standards in teaching, curriculum and student interaction achieve the AMBA accreditation.  That’s roughly the top 2% of MBA programmes worldwide.  At a time when the value of an MBA is questionable, and the traditional, institution-based learning model is being disrupted by online providers such as Coursera, an AMBA-accredited MBA is still a sure-fire path to success and, ultimately, wealth: in its 2013 survey, AMBA found that MBA graduates from its UK accredited Business Schools received an average salary of over £82,000.  More importantly, AMBA-accredited MBAs offer top-quality connections with the alumni of some of the world’s best Business Schools.

Responding to the unique scheduling challenges of Business Schools

The Business School market is fast-growing and competitive.  As with the higher- and further-education markets, institutions are increasingly under pressure to maximise their use of rooms and resources and provide accurate, up-to-date timetables to staff and students.  With nearly 30-years of experience behind our class-leading timetabling and resource management software, we’re confident that we can help AMBA’s accredited Business Schools to overcome their specific scheduling challenges: meeting the needs of ambitious students with high expectations; timetabling lectures for high-level business leaders with changing schedules and limited availability; and managing the extra data resulting from partnerships with affiliate schools and universities.  More importantly, this partnership shows that AMBA are confident of that, too.

Building on solid foundations

This is not a new space for Scientia: we already supply scheduling solutions to more than 130 Business Schools worldwide – nearly 40 of which are AMBA-accredited.  With our help, institutions including Cass Business School, Greenwich School of Management, Copenhagen Business School, BI Oslo, Norwegian School of Economics and ESADE (Barcelona) have been able to optimise their use of staff, rooms and resources, thereby meeting demand, reducing cost and improving student satisfaction.

James Grashoff, Scientia’s Head of Sales & Marketing (EMEAA), said:

“We’re thrilled to be working with AMBA. Our partnership will enable us to respond to the unique scheduling challenges which Business Schools face, particularly the complexities of timetabling within a fast-changing environment. We look forward to building on our work in this sector.”

Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s Chief Executive Officer, said:

“In the increasingly competitive and complex global world of postgraduate management education, every Business School is now searching for competitive advantages and more efficient customer service levels. The need for optimising efficiencies from resource planning, including campus facilities and full- and part-time faculty utilisation is now, I believe, becoming more rigorously reviewed, and time-pressed domestic and international students are now demanding more time-efficient curriculum scheduling. We have therefore partnered with Scientia to offer our Schools leading edge thinking and software in best practice scheduling and timetabling.”

If you’re an AMBA-accredited School or Member, look out for our posts on the AMBA Community site.  Visit our website to find our why we beat the competition to become Regent’s University’s chosen provider.

Business Schools can improve their scheduling with Scientia
Colleagues from AMBA & Scientia who were instrumental in creating the partnership. L-R: Tommaso Scali, Emily Wall, Andrew Main Wilson (AMBA); James Grashoff, Jasvinder Virdi (Scientia).