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Justifying technology investment in tough economic times

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How can expenditure on new technology be justified in the current financial climate? It can if it provides a rapid return on investment and helps further education institutions to reach their goals more efficiently.

Doing even more with less whilst improving standards in education is putting senior management teams in the UK’s FE Colleges to the test this year.

More than ever, technology can provide a return on investment and many FE colleges are already deploying solutions that offer both competitive advantages and enable them to guide themselves through the economic challenges ahead. Technology has the ability to help by making colleges more aware of their performance against targets in key areas.

In advance of the government’s spending review, South Staffordshire College deployed dashboard management software from Dynistics to provide advanced graphical reporting of its data in order to give the college’s management the ability to track operational information and better manage the college.

South Staffordshire College is just one of many FE institutions embracing technology to help manage its funding and streamline enrolment.

Phil Brockhurst, Director of MIS and IT, South Staffordshire College explains:

“In these austere times, it’s important that we can be as efficient as possible when steering the college through government cut backs, whilst also maintaining the high standard of education we provide; the dashboards software is easy to use and allows us to chart college data which ultimately allows us to measure efficiencies by tracking progress against targets. We can see trends in the data more easily than we could do before.”

Stealing a march on its competitors, South Staffordshire College is able to monitor its operational data in real time via a highly graphical interface available on the desktop – eliminating the need to run vast reports that are instantly out of date the moment they are produced.

Instead, information can be retrieved from any source across the college and displayed in a range of graphs and charts which update instantly as the data changes.

“We have 20,000 students and 1300 staff across four campuses – that’s a lot of data to interpret ‘manually’ in order to monitor performance, but we know that if we can measure the data we have, we can manage it much better,” continues Phil Brockhurst.

“Initially our priority was monitoring student enrolment and funding but essentially, if the data exists we can chart it, which means the possibilities for identifying areas where cost reductions can be made are endless. Breaking the information down into college departments allows us to consider the viability and sustainability of the college as a whole, each different department or even the specific courses we offer.

“Previously, such information would only have been available to the principal and the college management team in cumbersome reports which took hours to run and print. Active Dashboards is so easy to use that it allows us to do a job in just minutes that previously took hours.”

Technology undoubtedly provides South Staffordshire College with a way of achieving first class performance by its ability to better manage the levels of student, staff, funding and campus resources. Over or under-commitment of any of the above can lead to a surplus or deficit and inefficiencies.

“One of the biggest single challenges for FE colleges in the next 12 to 18 months will be to ensure that standards can be maintained whilst in most cases the resources available to colleges are reduced in line with government spending cuts,” said Anthony Dent, managing director, Dynistics.

“Technology can play a vital role in helping colleges to operate more effectively, improve standards and without question can help to rapidly reduce costs and inefficiencies.”

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