Student Retention: How can higher education organisations tackle student churn in the face of change?


19th October 2020

by Fraser Sutherland

Secure Infrastructure Sales Specialist (LAN) at Maintel

UK government scientific advisors have warned that Covid outbreaks are very likely in universities and we have already seen an estimated 110 UK universities with reported Covid-19 outbreaks. With around 15,000 students and staff infected since term began and calls for online teaching in lieu of face to face classes increasing, questions as to what the future of higher education looks like are rising. Students will be forced to adjust to a necessarily different learning and student experience in this first semester of the academic year.

As Alistair Jarvis, Chief Exec of Universities UK explained, life across all of society will be different this autumn, with university life no exception, with differences to previous years.

However, even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, student churn was the number one challenge effecting university performance, with 67% of students leaving because of financial problems and 52% believing mental or physical health to be a major drop out factor.  Notably, many higher education organisations find their highest student churn rates in the first 1-50 days of term or following the Christmas break.  

With this in mind, universities must consider the impact the changes and challenges this first post-Covid term may have on students’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing – Especially with the Christmas break fast approaching, Universities face the problem of struggling students not wanting to return to potentially face more unprecedented changes to the learning experience in a challenging second term So, how can higher education organisation tackle student churn in the face of ongoing challenges and change? 


The Learning Revolution  

The impact of the pandemic has sparked the necessity for change and is bringing about a longoverdue revolution to higher education learning. Universities need to invest in digital transformation to cut student churn, enable learning continuity, and support student wellbeing. Technical innovation can play a key part in the provision of flexible teaching spaces (both on and off campus) and also enable agile learning practices as we’ve never seen them before: 


  • Cloud Technology: Cloud capabilities can help to reduce churn by 1/3 leading to significant financial benefits of up to £1 million per year. Removing the boundary to attendance and ensuring that students receive the same experience on site, at home, in halls, or overseas, improves agile learning capabilities and ultimately the student experience. 
  • Intelligent Networking: Driving next-generation infrastructure, advancements from WiFi6 will support the growth of connected devices. This will help to improve the experience for both students and university employees. An enhanced WiFi speed for those on-campus or isolating in halls of residence, and ensuring the large number of users on multiple-devices both on and off campus can have their services provisioned and enabled with ease, is vital for learning continuity.  
  • Big Data: Utilising the power of big data can help organisations to drive better informed decision making. After all, student satisfaction drives attendance; attendance drives results; results drive profitability; profitability validates the vision. 

Where do we go from here?  

In the face of ongoing disruption and uncertainty, initiating change and taking the first steps toward your institution’s digital transformation journey might seem impossible. But we have good news for you – you don’t need to wait for new IT solutions to be developed to address the current online teaching requirements, because these technology solutions already existStart your digital transformation journey by considering which areas of technical innovation your organisation would most benefit from and how they can be implemented. From cloud, to networking, and even big data, digital transformation in education is at your fingertips.  

You may find our recent webinar discussing the Cloud University: rethinking higher education as we know it, of interest, click hereTo learn more about how you can kick start your higher education learning revolution, get in touch today, or read more about Maintel’s education solutions here 


Webinar Recording: Why the Cloud offers Higher Educations

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