The world surrounding the UK higher education sector is enduring a period of dramatic change. The introduction of tuition fees has positioned universities and other higher education institutions as businesses, and more importantly, their students as customers. But while such a change means the potential for generating higher revenues, operating as consumer-friendly businesses means that universities need to fundamentally change what they regard as quality student experience.

Nationally, applications to go to university are down by 25,000 on 2017, and competition for universities to provide quality experiences is at an all-time high. While this is somewhat due to the fact that there are fewer 18-year-olds in the population who are able to attend university, nevertheless, there is still intense competition in the higher education sector to attract students and fill places.

So, what is driving the demands of today’s student consumer?

Employability

Students entering university today are seeking learning environments that will set them up for successful careers. As digital natives, today’s Gen Z students want digital environments that will provide them with the right skills and tools to succeed in their transition from education to the working environment.

Streamlined learning

Gen Z are the App generation. They have only lived with a plethora of information at their fingertips. They have developed a mentality of prioritising products that provide the least amount of friction when trying to digest information. As it stands, 9 out of 10 students currently use up to ten apps per day, and 80% of students use a smartphone to support their learning.

Whilst student satisfaction numbers are good, the ever-changing nature of technology means that there is a lot to do for universities who wish to continue to innovate the way they deliver teaching experiences, including effectively leveraging assistive technologies and tools for remote digital learning.

Holistic teaching and learning

59% of Gen Z and 66% of millennials believe that technology can transform the way higher education students learn in the future. While incoming students are natural technology users, this is not necessarily the case for staff and academics. Students seeking digital classrooms are often met with a disconnect between their own technical aptitude and that of their classroom leaders. This causes new technology initiatives to fall down from lack of adoption. As such, there needs to be a holistic balance between people, process and technology when addressing how students are learning and what they want out of their classroom.

Connected living

Beyond learning, students want to feel connected to their student experience with digital access to information on personalised services, student societies and social networks. Universities that prioritise quality student experiences are forging strong relationships with their customers through flexible digital platforms that reach beyond the classroom.

With a digital-first consumer at the top of their agenda it is essential that the higher education sector adapts to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s students. They can do this by developing modern, engaging and secure experiences aimed at better teaching, learning and living.

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About this author

Picture of Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora

Manoj has worked for CGI since 2000 He began his career in the defence sector before going on to hold business development positions across a number of commercial and local government sectors, leading a successfully winning a number of multi-million pound contracts. In ...

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