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Centralising admissions case study

Many HEIs are reviewing admissions arrangements and many are also moving towards a more centralised or integrated model. First raised by the 2004 report by Professor Stephen Schwartz Fair admissions to higher education, centralisation is further prompted by increased competition (nationally and internationally), cessation of production of the UCAS copy application and pressure on resources.


Supporting Professionalism Admissions (SPA) gives an overview of 'centralised' admissions on its website. The following example is from an institution.


The institution benchmarked the number of applications and enrolments against those to competitor institutions together with the numbers of staff engaged in admissions. It was necessary to understand structures in competitor institutions to ensure a broad like for like comparison, requiring some degree of collaboration to examine practices in the competitor institutions despite competition for applicants.


The benchmarking exercise suggested that competitor institutions were managing a similar number of applications more efficiently and economically and this appeared to be linked to a movement in the competitor institutions to a more centralised model for admissions. Coupled with the national drivers, the institution initiated a detailed process review of admissions.


The benchmarking data were therefore the starting point for focused action in the institution, and supported senior management in a decision to initiate the review.


In its overview of centralised admissions, SPA underlines that greater efficiency may derive from a more centralised admissions process but any review of admissions would also assess benefits for the applicant:


  • Consistency within each course and across the HEI
  • Equal consideration
  • Speed of response
  • Quality of information
  • Development of a more integrated relationship with the applicant and a supported transition to HE


And for the institution:


  • Freeing academic subject staff from routine processing of applications
  • Improved application of statistical / market intelligence information
  • Control of student numbers on entry and in total


Therefore while the example institution's benchmarking exercise may lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness, there are many other benefits from the exercise (as identified by SPA) for applicants and for the institution.


Overall the example institution's benchmarking exercise took some time in order to:


  • Conduct the comparison and to report to senior management
  • Allow for institutional debate
  • Allow for the detailed internal process review
  • Ensure planned and effective implementation of change in a key operational area after the review