Using data to increase access and quality of higher education

Read on to discover how data can play a role in the advancement and reach of higher education. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, policy makers have relied on data to inform their decisions.  

Case numbers, patient demographics and mortality rates are just a selection of the data that have dictated the various lockdowns, vaccine rollouts plans and restrictive measures that the world has experienced  

Alongside the right expertise, data can provide decision makers with the confidence to pursue actions that they believe are likely to succeedso how can higher education benefit? 

One of the 17 UN sustainable development goals is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

Policy makers are facing pressure to act in order to meet the proposed targets by 2030, with the sustainable development goals seen as an urgent call for action by all countries. 

According to a discussion conducted by the Commonwealth Education Hub, data can play a significant role in the attainment of this UN sustainable development goal. 

The discussion, which involved “over 700 participants, comprising representatives from Education Ministries, development organisations, the private sector and academia”, revealed overwhelming support for “the need for credible and comprehensive data to inform policy decision making”. 

According to one respondent“Policy makers need to build a culture of monitoring and evaluation… policies should be data driven – both quantitative and qualitative. They need to interpret SDGs in their respective national contexts and set attainable goals. 

Universities themselves can use data to improve the higher education experience they provide.  

A key focus of the UK’s ‘National strategy for access and student success in higher education’ was to create “a national evaluation framework of common measures and effective evaluation practice”. 

In doing so, universities across the country can compare data with other institutions, such as application rates and student demographics; information that can then be used to improve student satisfaction. 

The national strategy also highlighted areas where data is lacking, such as “the nature of a student’s disability and the impact that this may have on his or her integration and success in higher education”. 

With this data, institutions can improve the quality of their higher education experience and tailor their services to meet the varied needs of students.  

Data can also be used to improve the teaching that takes place at higher education institutions, impacting “course management, learning analytics, curriculum planning, assisting teaching and learning centers, in-class formative assessment and post-class data use”. 

Benefits of using data as part of the learning experience include improved student retention rates, with data-led processes such as machine learning keeping students engaged with personalised teaching plans.  

Data can not only help policy makers and institutions create and implement successful plans for increasing the accessibility and quality of education but can also detect the progress and gaps of current policies 

One report revealed that while more people than ever were enrolling in higher education in Brazil, an increase of total undergraduate enrolment from 2.7 million in 2000 to nine million in 2016, further data exposed the failure to positively impact social inclusion 

While various policies have increased and diversified participation, further data showed that “most of this inclusion has happened in programs of lower social prestige, if not of lower quality, which lessens its impact in terms of social inclusion”. 

For more insight into how data can be used in higher education, please sign up for our EduData Summit 2021 (Virtual), Access Education: Building an Inclusive and Sustainable EduData Pipelinefrom 8-11 June 2021.  

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