Why Australian universities are lagging behind on student experience

Working towards a better student experience

3 big ideas

01

Universities worldwide are quickly falling behind global developments in technology and artificial intelligence to deliver a stagnant and "boring" learning experience.

02

Student recruitment isn't the problem, but student retention and advocacy is seriously suffering with mid to long-term consequences.

03

Universities once set out to prepare students for defined roles in hierarchical organisations, but the workforce has changed - the shift from process-driven to purpose-driven organisations requires universities to rethink their structure and intended student outcomes.

What made us think

Ken Rogof's recent op-ed laments the glacial pace in which universities worldwide are changing, quickly falling behind global developments in technology and artificial intelligence to deliver a stagnant and "boring" learning experience. If universities are seen to be leading innovation through research, why is there such a large gap between the groundbreaking findings of academics and the lacklustre learning experience for students?

Our point of view

Administrators may ask, "why improve student experience?" Arguably, many of Australian institutions are already ranked amongst the global top 100 and with demand-driven enrolments, student numbers are predicted to rise 45 percent by 2025.

It's a complex 'customer' relationship between tertiary institutions and their students. If students aren't really 'customers', to what extent must tertiary institutions provide tools that streamline student experience? Yet, in our experience working with universities, many are failing to provide even the most basic administrative functions well.

University student systems are renowned for being slow, difficult to manage and inefficient for both students and staff. While the ramifications of this may not immediately impact student demand, we have seen evidence that student retention and advocacy is seriously suffering with mid to long-term consequences.

Why it matters

Through our work with tertiary institutions in Australia, we have experienced first-hand the challenge of driving an innovation agenda within this context. Unlike other industries, university faculty members have enormous power over the administration.The real (or perceived) divide between academic staff and student administration stops innovation in its tracks, reverting programs quickly back to safe and incremental change. Progress is further halted through significant internal complexities, siloed departmental thinking, and a lack of internal empowerment for staff in administration functions. Beyond internal challenges, the mandate to improve student-experience is often cursory, lacking the adequate, cross-functional engagement to enact meaningful change.

How it applies in the real world

Incredibly, cynics might suggest that navigating a complex, bureaucratic process is an intended learning outcome of tertiary education. Universities once set out to prepare students for defined roles in hierarchical organisations, but the workforce has already changed. The shift from process-driven to purpose-driven organisations requires our universities to rethink their structure and intended student outcomes. If the sector continues to lag when it comes to overall student experience, how long will it be until traditional forms of education like University are disrupted or become entirely obsolete?

Want to know more?
Speak with your
subject matter expert:
Laurence Crew

CEC Team

September 2019

Service Design & Research

Understanding and designing for customers

Relevant capabilities

Customer Strategy
Customer Value Proposition (CVP) Design
Customer-led Innovation

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