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The Challenge of College Enrolment

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The UK’s colleges and universities are experiencing higher rates of enrolment than ever before. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, 311,000 UK 18-year-olds (10% more than the previous year) had applied for higher education places by its June deadline. What’s more, the government’s emphasis on the role of training programmes like apprenticeships to get people into work post-pandemic, and to boost the economy, will likely see enrolment numbers continue to grow.

High enrolment numbers are not the only challenge facing further education institutions. As we approach winter, it’s still unclear whether we’ll be forced to re-introduce measures to control the spread of coronavirus. This means that enrolment processes may need to be conducted remotely. Thankfully, digital solutions – which can support remote enrolment – also tackle a number of challenges that colleges, employers and learners face during the enrolment process.

Supporting small businesses

Further education colleges usually collaborate on apprenticeship programmes with a variety of small, medium and large enterprises.

Smaller businesses in particular are unlikely to have the resources – staff, time and budget – to dedicate to managing the enrolment process with programme providers. Completing the different elements of enrolment, which require the collaboration of partner businesses, can therefore prove challenging. Moreover, enrolment processes are complex, involving several processes. It can be difficult for smaller businesses to keep track of these effectively alongside their daily work, placing more pressure on colleges to hand-hold them through the process. Streamlining the systems in place is essential to conserve resources for both colleges and businesses, ensuring that the priority for staff remains the apprentice, not the paperwork.

Managing complexity

Usually, processes that make up enrolment take place across multiple platforms. Often this means separate logins for each part, as well as the completion of repetitive paperwork. Once all the elements of enrolment have been successfully completed, the data then needs to be manually aggregated into a single, coherent learner profile. This is a time-consuming process which increases the time-per-enrolment, impacting a college’s profit margins. 

Not only this, but the many separate stages of enrolment can be baffling for learners. Many apprentices are taking a big step in starting their apprenticeship and are already daunted by the prospect of managing their learning alongside work, often their first job. At the start of a course, further education colleges should be instilling their students with confidence and excitement for what lies ahead. Enrolment, therefore, needs to be as smooth as possible, not demanding too much time or effort, or the completion of arduous and bureaucratic processes.

What’s more, for learners who are feeling a little overwhelmed or who would simply like a reminder, being able to refer back to key introductory documents can also be really helpful. Students won’t always want to put their hand up to confess they’ve forgotten something; giving them access to the basics enables them to seek out any information that they’re unsure of. Having a central repository where students can find key information can support their confidence and, ultimately, their success.

Digital convenience

Over the past few years we’ve all had to become adept at managing our life, work and learning online. It’s not just Gen-Z who are digital-first; learners of all ages are accustomed to accessing, and now expect to access, their learning experiences online. This includes enrolment. Learners want to conduct administrative tasks from anywhere, fitting them around their other priorities and responsibilities.

Furthermore, word of mouth is an important element of marketing for businesses and further education institutions alike. Giving learners a smooth and hassle-free first experience will encourage them to spread the word about the college they’ve attended, ultimately resulting in more enrolments.

Paperwork and human fallibility

As we’ve already explored, enrolment processes are often complex with many distinct parts, which include self-assessments, formal skills assessments, and learning support needs assessments. Each of these processes requires the submission of accurate data and the provision of signatures, sometimes from multiple stakeholders. What this amounts to is a vast amount of time spent dealing with data.

Humans are prone to making mistakes, especially during repetitive tasks such as form filling. This fallibility can result in a seemingly endless back and forth between the college and the learner, or the college and the employer, to make sure that every required field is filled in, the data formatted correctly, and the document is signed by the right person.

Managing enrolment processes with paper systems can amount to a lot of printing and travelling to and fro, to make sure all documents are correct before submission. This can also lead to challenges when it comes to compliance. Paper-based records make it easier for essential data to slip between the cracks, undermining colleges’ efficacy when it comes time for Ofsted and Education & Skills Funding Agency visits.

For colleges supporting students with a range of learning needs, additional funds are available. Yet aggregating the data needed to draw down funds can be challenging if evidence is spread across paper documents. Valuable staff time, which should be spent with learners, is often needlessly channelled into the management of data.

A single-platform solution

The answer to many of the challenges facing further education colleges is to seek a single digital platform that can streamline the enrolment process. Of course, not every college has the same requirements, so the answer is not an out-of-the-box solution but a customisable platform that allows colleges to shape their learners’ experience.

Using one portal to aggregate the many aspects of a successful enrolment simplifies the processes for students, employers and college staff alike. Storing all documents in one place, allowing multiple stakeholders to access relevant elements and contribute missing information, not to mention the inbuilt checks that come with digital platforms (for example, automated format checks for key information such as National Insurance numbers) all save valuable time and money. This leaves colleges and businesses with more resources and energy to focus on their learners. For students, a smooth enrolment process will help to keep their confidence levels high as they take on a new challenge, encouraging them to generate positive word-of-mouth about their experience, all while contributing to the likelihood of their success.

Be better prepared for your January enrolments
Aptem Enrol brings students onto programme entirely electronically and remotely, helping you mitigate the risk of potential coronavirus restrictions while efficiently managing Ofsted, the ESFA, and GDPR requirements.

Arrange a call with a member of the Aptem Team to find out how Aptem Enrol can be implemented at your college.

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