Introducing Entering Tertiary: working with TEC to improve the customer experience for students

TL;DR

The Service Integration Team at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is working with the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on a discovery sprint to identify change opportunities for the Entering Tertiary Education life event.

Essentially, the sprint has been about helping prospective students enroll in the right learning at the right time at the right level for the best potential outcome. TEC is supported by other agencies involved with tertiary students, with the following goals:

  • to understand the life event from end-to-end from different students’ perspectives to find intervention points to help them and their families make better and more confident choices with their study
  • to identify where enrolment and secondary processes and services could be streamlined eg scholarships, student finances
  • identify reusable components that are relevant to entering tertiary.

So far in our discovery we’ve found that there are many levels and types of study that a person can enter from a range of different providers, including: polytechnics; wānanga, universities; industry training organisations and private tertiary establishments. People enter into study at different stages of life with different motivations and outcomes for their choices.

There can also be a lot of uncertainty with making decisions about tertiary education, especially for those transitioning from secondary school, where often it’s a rushed process in their final year. Choices for further study are influenced by a range of factors including the decile rating of secondary schools, people’s cultural and family backgrounds, and their attitude to risk and debt.

These insights are just a taster of things to come, we’ll be blogging again about our work in the new year. Plus we’ll be publishing a report of our findings too.

A broad life event – where to focus?

TEC are leading exploration of the Entering Tertiary life event with support from other agencies involved with tertiary students (e.g. Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, CareersNZ) to:

  • better understand the re/entering and enrolling in tertiary education life event from end-to-end
  • identify options for streamlining enrolment related processes to ensure efficiencies for both students and Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) in the first instance, and government agencies in the second
  • identify secondary processes and services that would benefit from a streamlined enrolment process or event, e.g. scholarship applications, student loans and allowances, electoral roll enrolment, etc
  • identify the pre-/during/post-intervention points to ensure the student is making the right enrolment in terms of field of study, level and location, and opting for the most effective funding option.

For the Service Integration Team it’s a chance to:

  • analyse and validate research about user needs, customer journey mapping, pain points and ensure a view of the users that is not agency specific
  • understand the broad picture of the problem space, who is doing what, and where opportunities lie for service delivery and improvements for users
  • test assumptions with users
  • identify reusable components that are relevant to entering tertiary
  • identify ways to help people make better choices for education – for better completion rates, less debt accumulated, etc
  • identify the potential roles of different service providers in the ecosystem.

This is a very broad life event that looks different for every person who goes through it. This means that we had to figure out how to narrow this down in a way that will let us come out with something meaningful in four weeks. Our vision for this work is:

“Prospective students enroll in the right learning at the right time at the right level for the best potential outcome”

We used a number of different methods to narrow down our scope to focus on the events leading up to enrolment:  what things could influence and lead students to enrolment that will improve their customer experience, and what the opportunities are for the integration of information and services to lead to improved enrollment outcomes.

What we’ve learned so far

There are many levels and types of study that a person can enter from a range of different providers; from polytechnics; wānanga, universities; industry training organisations and private tertiary establishments. People enter into study at different stages of life. There are many different motivations and outcomes for their choices.

Here are some of the key insights from our first two weeks:

  • We are considering the experience of all students entering tertiary, but we have focused on 16 to 26 year olds as they are in a transitional phase of life, especially those who are school leavers deciding (or struggling to decide) what their next steps will be. This group has the least amount of certainty, which is influenced by many factors. Their experiences have some commonality with other groups too, e.g. mature students entering tertiary education for the first time.
  • Those who come from less privileged backgrounds are more conservative with their choices relating to study because their ability to recover is harder for initial poor choices, i.e. the impact on their finances of course costs and time out from employment. How might we support minimising risk for these groups?
  • Studies show Pasifika students have perceptions that going to university means becoming doctors and lawyers. These perceptions are a barrier for them deciding to pursue university study.
  • The enrollment process causes frustration and potential disengagement for prospective students. However, experience is variable across tertiary providers.
  • The school decile system seems to re-enforce social classes and appears to impact on students’ tertiary choices. Students from decile 10 schools are twice as likely to go to university than those from decile 9 schools. Generally, those who go to decile 5-7 schools go to polytechs, and those from decile 1-3  schools go to wānanga /private tertiary establishments/industry training organisations.
  • School leavers are moving away from going into tertiary study, but instead of going into work many are choosing to travel overseas in higher numbers than the generation before them.
  • There are many different influences on youth as they enter adulthood. High school seniors feel pressure to make quick decisions about what they are going to do next, before they even really know themselves yet. The time window in year 13 closes very quickly which forces many into rushed decisions.
  • Industries such as the tech industry are actively telling young people that they do not need to study to work for them, and are actively recruiting young people out of high school.

These insights are just a taster for things to come, we’ve engaged with students, parents, careers advisors and tertiary mentors and we’ll be blogging again about our work in the new year. Plus we’ll be publishing a report of our findings too.

Interested in your thoughts and comments below!


Our broad Service Integration work program is outlined here, and we invite you to join our mailing list or follow our blog posts to keep up-to-date, and to visit us if you are in town at our OpenLab events each Friday from 4pm at our new location from January 2018 at 79 Boulcott Street, Wellington.

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