Our conference, a retrospective

By Victoria Wilson

Driving success in the years ahead

With the area reviews process in its final stages and both the further and higher education sectors gearing up for change, education and skills provision is being reshaped for a new era. 

So, the theme of the Capita Further and Higher Education National Conference 2017– embracing change together for a brighter future – struck a chord with the FE and HE professionals who came along to network with colleagues and discuss the challenges and opportunities they face. 

The conference was held at the Radisson Blu hotel, Castle Donington on 28 and 29 March and we would like to thank all of you for joining us and helping to make it such a success. 

Day 1

Attending her first conference as Head of Further and Higher Education at Capita, Karen Reece welcomed both new and familiar faces from across the UK.

With sixth form colleges looking at the pros and cons of converting to academies and the ongoing drive to encourage higher education institutions to sponsor schools, conference host, Kevin Gilmartin, Post-16 and Colleges Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), spoke about the changing shape of the further and higher education sectors. 

A well-attended session hosted by Richard Simson, Performance and Planning Manager and Mark Sanger, Data Analyst, from Ayrshire College, offered attendees valuable examples of how this innovative institution is using details of attendance and student demographic within UNIT-e, alongside information on the quality of activity within the college’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), to identify those students who are at risk of withdrawing from their studies. This work has been essential in arming staff with the information they need to work with these students and put measures in place to keep them on track.  

Dominic Harrex, Assistant Principal (Resources) at Longley Park Sixth Form College, was joined by Paul Mangnall, former Principal of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, to talk delegates through the various stages in the journey towards becoming an academy.

Outlining the latest changes to data protection legislation was Victoria Cetinkaya, Senior Policy Officer (Public Services), from the Information Commissioner’s Office, who talked about the importance of data sharing in education and highlighted the growing need for institutions to demonstrate the legal basis behind their processing of information. Victoria also explained the impact of Brexit on the rules around information management – emphasising ‘business as usual’.

As the first day of the conference drew to a close, delegates gathered to hear Iain Bell, Chief Data Officer at the Department for Education demystify the reasons behind the strategic reforms to FE and HE funding, explain how the data being collected will be used, and answer questions from the floor.

Day 2

The second day of the conference kicked off with Rob Elliott, Head of Product and Development at Capita FHE unveiling his future vision for the Advantage suite of mobile solutions and how UNIT-e will continue to support colleges and universities in the years ahead. 

This was followed by John Littler, MIS Data Analyst and Helen Ward, Systems and Development Manager from Heart of Worcestershire College, where the Staff Advantage solution is in action. They were joined by Laura Rice, CIS and Exams Manger from Richard Huish College, who offered her top tips for a smooth introduction to both the Staff Advantage and Student Advantage solutions, which have generated much excitement across the college.

A popular breakout session hosted by Jon Cole, Head of MIS at Morley College, revealed how the offer of more online services has provided the institution with a wealth of information that has helped staff to target its marketing activity more effectively and contributed to a 45% increase in income from fees.

After lunch, Andrew Acreman, Director of Management Information at Havering Sixth Form College, supported by Maurice Down, Capita Report Specialist, gave a demonstration of how Management Advantage will provide senior leaders with a tailored dashboard for tracking his college’s progress against key performance indicators.

Conference summary
The event showcased the positive approach that is being taken by both the FE and HE sectors in these changing times. Delegates embraced the opportunity to benefit from the many different experiences of institutions across the country as they strive to continue ensuring that young people get the education and skills they need to compete in an ever-evolving world of work. 

Key contributors
The conference’s wide-ranging programme featured contributions from educational organisations throughout the UK:

  • Gary Wallace, HE Student Information Manager, SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), explained why its online staff portal has become an essential tool for all academic and administrative staff.
  • Kim Robinson, Head of Registry Services, Goldsmiths, University of London, showcased its new online system for students requesting adjustments for special needs and disabilities.
  • Sharon Driver, Director, GSD Project Management, offered FE colleges some practical advice on the benefits of integrating systems and processes, both pre and post-merger. 
  • Conor Bradley, eLearning Technology Manager and Nancy Whiteley, Head of MIS at Borders College, offered advice on integrating UNIT-e with the college’s VLE.
  • Si Blight and Ian Godsmark, Information Systems Development Officers at Kent Adult Education, talked about how to improve the enrolment process by using Information Interface Professional Edition. 
  • John Schofield, MIS Manager, Ashton Sixth Form College, provided an outline of the college’s use of Microsoft’s business intelligence analysis tools.
  • Clare Cozens, Technology Relationship Manager at UCAS gave an introduction to the new systems being developed for undergraduate and post-graduate application processes.
  • Andy Youell, Project Director, HESA, looked at the changes being made to the key HESA returns as part of their Data Futures programme.
  • Paul Greenhalgh, Director at Skillwise, spoke about tracking and supporting apprentices.

Customers can now view the slide sets from the conference by logging into the MySupport portal and navigating to 'User events'.

Please get in touch by email if you are interested in attending, speaking or exhibiting at any future Capita FHE conferences.