The University of East London (UEL) has been pioneering futures since 1898. With campuses in Stratford and Royal Albert Dock, they are a careers-led university, dedicated to supporting their students in developing the skills, emotional intelligence and creativity needed to thrive in a constantly changing world.
In 2018, the University began implementing ‘Vision 2028’, it’s ten-year strategy. One of the central pillars is ‘sustainability’, where they aim to increase resilience and maximise value.
In order to manage the annual clearing process, the Admissions Team have to manually transfer around 1,300 records from their internal system to the UCAS website annually between August and September. This part of the process takes approximately 15-20 minutes per application to transfer data and check its validity.
During the peak of the clearing period, the University would normally recruit temporary staff to undertake and complete this task within the given restraints. In addition, the University has to account for a peak in enquires that need responding to in a timely manner to ensure a positive prospective student experience.
UEL engaged Equantiis to run a ‘proof of concept’ using ‘Robotic Processing Automation’ (RPA), a process that involved the development of a ‘bot’ which would automate the transfer of application data between the UEL internal system and the UCAS website.
Equantiis partnered with Automation Anywhere as a technology partner to develop the ’bot’ which would run the process unattended at scheduled intervals. Not only would the ‘bot’ reduce manual processing, it would also skip records with incomplete fields and log this information for further review. In addition, resilience and exception handling were built in to ensure data quality and accuracy of transferred records between systems.
The first iteration of the ‘bot’ was ready within 60 hours from the initial briefing meeting and was quickly able to demonstrate how it would meet the success criteria:
- To reduce the time taken in transferring a record with the ‘minimum’ information that UCAS required
Once underway the ‘bot’ met the criteria with a 93% reduction in the time to transfer records, with an individual record now taking one minute instead of fifteen. The equivalent manual processing time for 500 records would take an additional 17 days. Not to mention a 100% data accuracy rate between systems.
- Future use cases
From the moment the bot ran for the first time, and it was clear that the time to process a record had reduced considerably, the team began to visualise how else this technology could enhance processes across the University. This would allow them to redistribute staff time to focus on other higher-value activities that improves the student experience.
The impact of Covid on examination results also meant that for some courses the process may also need to be extended, meaning that the ‘bot’ can continue to transfer data whilst the time can focus on helping more prospective students at the beginning of their university experience.
- Demonstrable ROI
The proof of concept also highlighted that utilising RPA would have a clear and demonstrable ROI for the University, leading the University to begin developing an automation strategy coinciding with other workstreams in their transformation. This will offer UEL more opportunities to enhance the student experience in more ground-breaking ways.