Teaching & Learning


New service offers insights into undergraduate admissions and pre-award grants

22 September 2017

UCL Data and Insight Service to help academic and professional services staff make better evidence-based decisions

data visualisation on a computer
  • Are application, offer and confirmation rates healthy compared to history?
  • Are we on track to maintain Home, International, EU numbers as expected?
  • How can grant success rates be improved or maintained?
  • How can the bid strategy be improved?

The UCL Data & Insight (D&I) Service launches in October 2017. It will provide intuitive and engaging dashboards and visualisations of up-to-date data, which will help academic and professional services staff make better evidence-based decisions.

The Service is built on four elements:

  • A transparent service with customers at the heart
  • Sound governance
  • Effective technology
  • A data and insight culture

D&I is ‘customer-led’. Our ‘customers’ are UCL academic and professional services staff who use data to make decisions in Departments. The governance group that sets direction and prioritises areas for analysis is made up of customers and users, and all dashboards are developed with, and for, customers. Our customers have said that UG Admissions and Worktribe Pre-award Grants are most important to them, so these dashboards will be delivered first.

One of the design principles of D&I is that all reports must help customers answer questions that are important to them. With that in mind admissions tutors, deans, faculty managers, faculty tutors, heads of department and admissions staff have been involved in developing the UG Admissions report, while research facilitators, co-ordinators, faculty managers, the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research), and Research Services have been involved in developing the Pre-award Grants report. Among other questions, the UG Admissions report will help users answer: “Am I on track to meet my UG Home, EU and International offer targets”. The Worktribe Pre-award Grants report will help users answer: “Am I properly recovering overheads?”

Dashboards on Admissions and Pre-award grants will be offered to a limited group of initial users in the Autumn, as the new service is bedded in. As time passes the number of users will increase, analyses will become broader, and users will be trained and empowered to carry out analyses themselves.

The scope of the D&I service will not be limited to Students and Research; it will expand to any area which requires better visualisation of better data to improve decision-making that supports the academic mission. There may be cases when data is not available, or is of poor-quality; one aim of D&I is to help colleagues implement strong data management processes. As well as being customer-led and question-focussed, all reports will be transparent: the source and quality of the data, and the definitions of calculations and terms used within, will be clearly stated, and clear feedback mechanisms will be available. D&I is committed to continuous improvement - as well as developing new reports, existing reports may have to be refocussed, decommissioned, or improved as the strategic environment changes.

A new data-warehouse has been built by ISD, which will facilitate rapid and secure delivery of up-to-date and accurate data. The first reports will be delivered through the data-warehouse, using a self-service visualisation tool called Tableau, which is used by HESA, HEFCE, Jisc, and many other HEIs. Tableau can be used with any browser and on any device.

Customers have already identified around 40 potential areas for analysis, traversing estates and space, planning, teaching and education, information services, enterprise, finance and human resources. One aim of D&I is to improve the pool of data and analysis experts through UCL, and subject-matter experts in different business areas will lead the development of insightful dashboards in their areas. A Community of Practice of Data & Insight expert analysts has been formed and trained in Tableau, and will take forward projects to improve data-quality, visualisation best-practice, and help instil a culture of evidence-based decision-making throughout UCL.

How can you get involved?

If you would like to learn more about the D&I service, or see Tableau in action, please get in touch with the Data & Insight team to arrange a visit to your team meeting.

Drop-in sessions have also been arranged throughout October. If you would like to attend, or if you have a question you need insight on, please let us know.

To learn more about the D&I Service, please see our website.