We’ve been working with staff in Student Services and agreed to facilitate a rapid improvement event for the University’s change of status processes (for Taught students). Change of status is when a student decides to take some time out from study (leave of absence), withdraw (leave), extend their study, repeat a year (if they have failed) or change course.
This was a process that had been implemented in 1999: students apply for a change of status in one form, and the form has had numerous iterations, mainly to meet external compliance needs.
We carried out two surveys (one staff facing and one student facing) and interviewed lots of people who are involved with the process. Consistently the feedback included old forms being used, the process time is too long, forms completed incorrectly, forms completed without receiving the correct advice and that the form was too cramped to show the guidance and signposting that had been given to the student. We also noted that many staff were writing additional information onto the form, e.g. who to send further information to and the registration status in the margins of the form.
At the 5-day event, we spent a lot of time understanding each of the sub-processes, and identifying where re-work and waiting occurred.
After a lot of work mapping the current process, the project team was keen to make progress on the new processes. We looked at form and came up with four flipchart pages of problems with their design. Some of the group were assigned to redesigning the form while others looked at the repeat sub-process.
The repeat process was particularly challenging to the team; we realised that the ‘ideal process’ required substantial systems development, and major changes in working practices. We were able to make some small improvements to the existing process, and for the first time identify all of the problems with this process. The group recommended that the Project Sponsor take this forward for a separate review.
To improve the four other processes, we created a new clearer form for each process. This ensures that the form only requires information specific to the student’s request, removing room for error. The majority of the form will be completed by staff, who will be familiar with the requirements, once again alleviating room for error. It was agreed that the form should only be available within academic departments, to ensure that the student makes time to consult with staff prior to making an application for change of status, and that only nominated staff can approve and forward the form to Taught Programmes Office (TPO) (helping error-proof and track the form, and reducing the number of paper copies). Further improvements were made once the form arrives in TPO, some of which can be implemented in the short term, and others with minimal system enhancement.
It was incredibly helpful having representatives from five academic departments present at the event, this really helped us to focus on best process from the student and academic department perspective, and ensured that we have five champions to help embed this new process within the next few months.