Directorate for the Student Experience

Getting to know the SLP Team: Catherine Schofield

27 July 2018

What is your role on the SLP?

I started working on the SLP in the role of a Product Owner for two student lifecycle areas – Application and Admission and Student Finance. In February 2018, I was formally seconded to the project as Head of Student Administration (SLP). Since this date I’ve been involved more widely across the student journey, providing more detail on how processes work within the University, gaining a greater understanding of all of the technologies and keeping an overview on designs and any necessary work to amend any designs.

For example, when the technical design document is written, more detailed queries emerge which need business input and it may become apparent that a system may not be able to work quite as envisaged in the design stage requiring some changes to the design.

I utilise my extensive experience of working in the University at both School and Central level to explain processes, often acting as a bridge between the technical teams and business users.

How were the admissions processes developed?

In the role of Product Owner you have overall responsibility for the design work of a particular student lifecycle area; however, it is very much a collaborative effort. Each workstream has a number of nominated people who act as business process designers and then as many admissions colleagues as needed.

The first part of the work was to capture business requirements. We started with topic areas and then we had one line business outcome requirements related to these topic areas. In the first phase you aim to capture everything, as you go through the design you decide which ones are critical for delivery immediately and which ones you would want to look at later. Nothing is ever lost – things you want to look at later go into a ‘backlog’.

Colleagues working in admissions will know that we’d started working on a number of projects such as a new direct entry application form a few years ago, so in some ways we’d done some of the requirement gathering before. The design workshops were great in that they enabled all of us to contribute ideas on improvements and simplifications that can be made. We had a very long list of these. Then the hard work started.

In the design phase, the team works through each requirement in detail, determining exactly what it means, what we need a solution to do and then exploring the different technologies with the system experts to find a suitable solution.

For admissions processes, most of the functionality is provided by Campus Solutions, including the Online Admissions Application form (OAA). One of the most exciting things is the ability to integrate the technologies together to provide far more than one system can provide on its own. For example, using My Manchester for offer holders to complete their Right to Study check and for their view of the CAS process which directly uses information from Campus Solutions will allow us to deliver a more intuitive, simpler and less stressful experience to applicants whilst also delivering staff efficiencies.

How did you ensure that the views and experience of both School and central staff were fed in to the design process?

It is vital to get a broad section of people involved. The business process design roles were undertaken by Fiona Eccles from the Central Admissions Team and Sandra Kershaw and Tas Hanif from schools. A wide selection of colleagues from across the Schools and Faculties were invited to workshops, including those with expertise in undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research admissions. We also had input from the Manchester Access Programme, the University Language Centre, and Study Abroad. We built on the existing close working arrangements with SRID colleagues, working closely with them on recruitment and agent mediated applications. As I was also the Product Owner for Student Finance, I was able to ensure that we integrated admissions processes with finance ones e.g. application fees, the taking of deposits (conditional and unconditional offer stages), CAS fee updates etc.

What do you think will be the biggest improvement for applicants?

For our direct entry applicants the online application form will be much better. Other benefits include a one-stop place for offer holders to go to for all of the processes relating to obtaining a Tier 4 visa, and the ability to upload documents after the application form has been submitted. The extension of My Manchester to applicants will also make them feel that they are part of the Manchester community earlier in their journey.

And the biggest improvement for staff?

The improvements around CAS processing will be great, reducing the volume of emails that we receive in Schools and in the Student Immigration Team, freeing up resource to deal with situations where offer holders and students need personalised advice and support.

The effort of document management and tracking will be greatly reduced including the introduction of a date driven reminder for offer holders to provide transcripts and certificates that they were still studying on at the time of application.

What do you have in the backlog for admissions?

The backlog for admissions isn’t that large, however, there are always opportunities for improvements. One area is the introduction of a process for handling applicant appeals and complaints, this was left as the volume of these is much lower than for students and it was felt that the process developed for students could probably be adapted for applicants at a later stage. There are two pieces of work that are ongoing and that are now spin-out projects: PGR applicant pool and an agent portal to allow agents to act on behalf of applicants and to be able to track the progress of applications.

Catherine Schofield, Head of Student Administration (SLP)

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