This is a guest post from Fellow Stephen Parkes. Stephen was awarded a Catalyst Grant for his project Go Enrol, a website allowing potential students to compare higher education opportunities on the issues that matter to them. Stephen is particularly keen to find Fellows who can introduce student career advisors, teachers and parents of students who looking at going to university.
With average tuition fees in England of £8,448 per annum, students are making one of the largest financial commitments of their life. With an expected drop-out rate of around 37,000 students from this year's cohort, this means that around £310 million will be misspent on tuition alone. This is before we even consider the time wasted of all involved, along with the other costs. When you consider also that an estimated 26% of undergraduates wished they had done more research before applying, we end up with a lot of students wishing they had made a different decision. With cut backs on career guidance in schools, more support is needed to be given to students. Go Enrol is building an online scalable form of support which can be used by students easily, for free anywhere the student is.
With the Catalyst Award we aimed to understand better what is motivating students to decide to go to university and what they care about when making a choice. Whilst this work has focused on the UK, what we are creating is aimed to support students everywhere. In fact this August we reached our 120th country for Go Enrol to have been used in. To do our research we spoke with 6th form students at Crown Woods school in London, conducted a survey of university students in Birmingham, spoke with school career advisors and conducted a workshop in Karantaka, India.
In addition to this research component, we wanted to put into action ideas which were informed by our findings. This resulted in us completely reworking Go Enrol's search page to focus on specific filters and make location searching easier. We also implemented a recommendation system on every course page to raise awareness of alternative courses and developed a student profile tool which allows students to manage their short-list easily.
When choosing a university and course, the key criteria for students which came up time and again were career prospects, reputation of the university and social life. At the other side of the spectrum, it was interesting to learn how little students seemed to care about the specifics of the curriculum or who was teaching them. Once they had started studying though, both of those criteria appear to be extremely important as to whether the student believes their course is meeting their expectations. This disconnect between the applying stage and what matters once studying, is an aspect Go Enrol is beginning to deal with.
The RSA Catalyst Award has been extremely helpful for Go Enrol. The team at the RSA, particularly Joanna Massie, have been very supportive and super at introducing other Fellows. I've found that the sessions with Joanna have been particularly helpful for feedback about what we are doing. Other fellows who provided useful guidance about delivering workshops were Eugenie Teasley and Rick Hall.
To push forward and improve Go Enrol further we are keen to speak with Fellows who are, or could introduce, student career advisors, teachers and parents of students who looking at going to university.
If there any other Fellows who would like to have a coffee to explore any ideas, I am very open to meeting at the RSA House. My email is stephen[at]goenrol.com. Follow Go Enrol on Twitter on @goenrol and visit our website www.goenrol.com.
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture through grants, expertise and crowdfunding visit our Catalyst webpage.