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97 to 17: Discover how technology in Higher Education has changed clearing over 20 years

Let’s cast our minds back to 1997, the year the first Harry Potter book was launched, Internet Explorer 4 was released and the year that students were left ‘disappointed’ by the clearing process.

The student clearing process in 1997

In 1997, courses in clearing would be listed in The Independent newspaper and prospective students would be sent one ‘clearing entry form’ from UCAS. On receiving their form, the applicant would head to their school or college for careers advice and then call the admissions office at their chosen university in the hope of securing a place.

Once they had spoken to their chosen university they would complete their ‘clearing entry form’ and post it to the university. Prospective students and their parents would then nervously wait over the next few weeks for their confirmation letter to arrive in the post.

From the admissions side, as recently as 5 years ago, enquiry teams would accept calls from prospective students, write up short paper reports and hand them over to their team leader. The team leader would then divide them up and one lucky volunteer would be chosen to run across campus to deliver the reports to the appropriate faculties.

From there, the faculty admissions team – and potentially the academic member of staff – would then process the application and manually follow-up via the landline or send out an offer. Delaying the response time to prospective students and adding additional stress.

The student clearing process in 2017

Fast forward 20 years, Harry Potter is now married, Microsoft has launched Edge and students are now able to access 30,000 clearing courses listed at the click of a button.

Students no longer have to wait for their ‘clearing entry form’ to arrive by post or are restricted to conversing with one clearing university. Students can view, call and enquire for multiple clearing courses at multiple universities if they wish – from anywhere in the world via the UCAS website.

Of course there are parts of the process that still remain the same today. Students still seek advice from their education provider and admissions teams still receive phone calls – but the way in which universities are processing the information has also changed which in turn has improved student experience.

The introduction of higher education web forms and dynamic scripts

With the introduction of clearing web forms, the roles are reversing. Universities are collecting enquiries via responsive online forms and generating responses based on input. Thus allowing the system to generate the appropriate next step for the enquirer.

If the enquirer is unsuccessful the system will send an automated rejection. If the enquirer is successful, the university may use their call management system to call the student back. In some instances universities are implementing dynamic scripts to aid the process.

Dynamic scripts allows the university caller to process enquirer’s details whilst on the call. There are several benefits of using this type of technology; the university is able to reduce reliance on phone lines, the university caller no longer has to be seen as ‘the bad guy’ for delivering the news and ultimately improving the speed of response which in turn improves student experience!

As you can imagine, students are now telling a very different story from 20 years ago – and so are universities. In the few days following results day last year, 30,000 students were already placed. The anecdotal evidence shows that students are no longer ‘disappointed’ with the clearing process and universities are now processing enquiries and applications a lot quicker than ever before.

This begs the question, what changes are in store for the next 20 years?