What are digital natives looking for in a university?

SOURCE: Robyn Beck / AFP
A recent study found that 90% of students are most concerned with a consistent digital experience from their university

By U2B Staff 

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A recent study commissioned by Enterprise SaaS Provider, TechnologyOne, in partnership with YouGov revealed that expectations of a consistent digital experience among university students remain high. This UK study surveyed more than 1,000 university students to find out what they want from their experience.

Out of the 1,026 students interviewed, only 26% of students are enrolled in fully-online classes while 9% are enrolled in courses that offer blended learning. This shows a great need for universities to ramp up efforts in providing digital experiences to their students.

Choosing the right field of study still remains top of mind when students select a university. However, these new findings reveal that while factors forming part of the student experience such as the reputation of the institution remain a priority, accessibility to facilities and geographic location all play a part in the final decision.


While certain factors such as course and overall reputation remained the most influential, the key takeaway from the research is that almost 90% of students are most concerned with a consistent digital experience from their university.

Students also placed significant importance on having online access to administrative information processes, including digitised registration processes, as well as online access to timetables and exam information.

This is reflected by the findings of the study, where 87% of students reported that they found access to online learning material important and 60% found that online access to administrative information very important.



Consistency is the key to success

With tuition fees sharply rising over the last ten years and rumoured to increase for EU citizens in Autumn 2020 due to Brexit, student expectancy is high. In an industry where success is measured on student feedback, keeping up with those expectations is integral to remaining competitive.

The findings show there is a real need for higher education providers to ensure standardisation across all digital offerings and interactions. An optimised student experience is not just a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential part of attracting and retaining students in an increasingly competitive market. Universities are vying on a global stage for students and the reality is that only those offering high-quality and consistent digital experiences will have a competitive edge.


Digital natives demand innovation

While there is a high demand for digitised and innovative student experience, the study revealed that a large proportion is left uninspired with the current use of technology in their courses. Only 11% of students characterised the technology they interact with as ‘innovative’, while 64% described it as merely ‘functional’.

Failure to innovate and implement smart campus solutions to enhance the student experience may prove detrimental to remaining competitive. Currently, only one in five universities are using smart devices during lectures or offer campus navigation apps or maps that can be accessed via a smart device, and only 3% have adopted AI technology, such as chatbots.

To determine the actual importance of technology and innovation on the student experience, study participants were asked if they would consider switching to a different university if it provided better levels of technology and innovation. More than half (59%) indicated that they would consider doing so, demonstrating its high level of importance in the overall educational experience. Therefore, higher education providers must work to harness more innovative solutions to improve the campus experience for a wider, more diverse and digitally savvy cohort of students.


So, what matters most to students?

Digitally optimised experiences not only provide students with seamless and easy processes but also increase the number of data touchpoints and opportunities to gather information about the student population. This data can be used by universities in many ways, from streamlining administration, increasing student retention and improving academic performance to managing the entire student lifecycle.

By looking to the future and optimising the end-to-end student experience, higher education providers are creating happier and more engaged students. The introduction of digital processes also mirrors the modern workplace, helping to build a digitally confident workforce that’s ready to meet the digital skill demands of tomorrow.

Only through digitally optimised experiences can higher education providers take advantage of efficiencies and ensure they are focused on what’s important: driving cost-effectiveness, improving student outcomes and developing a lifelong learning partnership.


Peter Nikoletatos is the Global Industry Director of Education at TechnologyOne and has more than 30 years’ experience in the ICT industry. Over the years, he has held several senior IT roles across the Higher Education Sector, Radiology and the Resources sector, including most recently as Executive Director and Chief Information Officer at La Trobe University (Australia), where he currently holds an Adjunct Professor role with the School of Computer Sciences and IT (CSIT).