5 November 2021

Welsh universities get funding boost for data analytics

HEFCW and Jisc joint release

Thousands of students and teachers across Wales will benefit from cutting-edge data analytics technology to improve student engagement, retention and performance as a result of a funding boost to be announced today by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and Jisc, the UK’s digital body for education.

The additional part-funding from HEFCW totalling about £133,000 will enable universities in Wales to accelerate learning analytical solutions developed by Jisc to better engage and support students.

The cash injection for a further year will be announced during an online event for university sector leaders to be opened by Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language. The new funding builds on the success of HEFCW’s previous investment for Jisc’s learning analytics service to all Welsh universities in 2018, which saw large amounts of data being used intelligently to improve learning outcomes.

Jisc’s Learning Analytics technology transforms the student experience using descriptive analytics, powered by live data fed from multiple education systems. It allows staff to analyse live and extensive datasets visually to determine whether students are participating, engaging and progressing with their courses – both online and on-site – and if they need additional support. It also acts as an early warning system so that staff can intervene faster to help students where there are risks of non-continuation or concerns requiring specialist student support, such as wellbeing or financial issues.

The renewed focus on and greater need for learning analytics comes amid changes to teaching, learning and assessment in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the continued impact of hybrid learning and reduced on-site attendance on students.

Opening the event, Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, will say:

“I’m very pleased to mark the launch LA Cymru 2, which will build on the good work of LA Cymru and bring together the growing amount of data available on student engagement and performance in Wales.

“Students continue to be at the heart of learning analytics, and the support institutions and partners can provide based upon it has only become more important since Covid.

“The work of partners – including seven of Wales’ universities, Jisc and HEFCW – will ensure the benefits of this work are quickly implemented on the ground, and I’m very grateful to everyone involved for their work.”

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said:

“We are pleased to be able to support Jisc to continue to build on the important work done under the first phase. This will benefit providers but most of all students, who continue to face additional challenges in how they live and study as a result of the pandemic.

“Student expectations will continue to change, and we know that providers want to be both innovative and responsive to the needs of students and to external pressures.

“Learning Analytics Cymru 2 will continue to identify helpful interventions for students so that they can continue with their studies successfully and be supported in their wellbeing, and we fully support this significant partnership between Jisc and Welsh universities.”

Heidi Fraser-Krauss, new CEO of Jisc, will say:

“I am delighted that HEFCW has further invested in our data analytics in Welsh higher education provision to enhance student support and outcomes. Jisc’s learning analytics service was developed with the sector to enable staff to proactively spot patterns and anomalies in data. This information enables effective conversations with students to improve their attendance and wellbeing. Such conversations, held at the right time, could make all the difference between a student failing and succeeding.

“As we enter a post-Covid world and move towards established models of hybrid learning, the opportunities to transform education through innovative solutions are there for all to grasp. The need for universities to take advantage of learning analytics technology is now more important than ever to provide students with the correct level of support and the best chances of success.”