College Collaboration Fund Project – DN Colleges Group & The Sheffield College

The College Collaboration Fund (CCF)

A peer-support programme to help FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities. To download and read the full project summary please click here CCF Report.

Further information can also be found on the DN Colleges Group website.

Project Overview – DN Colleges Group (lead) & The Sheffield College (partner)

The aim of the project is to enhance the student experience and to ultimately digitalise paper-based processes. The objectives are to map the administrative processes behind the student journey and to establish a To-Be set of process definitions. This involved stakeholder workshops and challenges to existing ways of working. The project involved:

  • Specifications and user journeys to inform future digital solutions gap analysis or procurement requirements
  • As-is and to-be process maps that colleges across the sector can use on an ‘adopt and adapt’ basis
  • Standard operating procedures, guides and manuals

What We Did

Built process maps of the as-is (current) process in both colleges.

  • Course Data, Marketing, Admissions, Keep-warm, Enrolment, Induction, Progression
  • Met with Student representatives to help understand the journey from their perspective. (see Appendix A4 – The Students’ Student Journey)
  • Identified 129 observations between two colleges. Mostly ‘pain points’. (see Appendix A3 – Example ‘As-Is’ Pain Points)
  • Grouped these into 5 categories, with problem statements
  • Developed a main problem statement

Main Problem Statement

“There is no eco-system for managing relevant, timely and accessible communication throughout the learner journey.”

Supporting Problem Statements (Causes)

Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) drive behaviours that can conflict with students’ best interests. [Culture]

  • Within colleges, there is often a pressure to maintain numbers, which can affect quality. Quality can affect numbers too.
  • Regulations can justify processes that don’t help students.
  • Teams working in silos are hard for a student to navigate.
  • Strategies and policies that are not enforced are not effective.
  •  Lack of accountability means things get missed.

There is no single view of information for contact management throughout the learner journey.

  • Students are made to deal with the college in a variety of ways.
  • It is hard to follow a student from the first expression of interest to enrolment.
  • It is hard to evidence precisely which marketing campaigns are most effective.
  • Students are asked the same questions by different people in the college.
  • It would be hard to show which students have a poor customer experience, or why.

Colleges sometimes do not communicate clearly, leading to undesired outcomes.

  • There is no communications plan for the learner journey.
  • Different departments contact the learner with inconsistent messaging, branding and voice.
  • It is hard for students to understand their learner journey because the college does not provide transparency or expectations.
  • Information about courses is not shared fully with students.
  • Colleges sometimes find it hard to communicate reliably with young people who frequently change their preferred communication channel or address.

Data or information does not always exist or is not always accessible at the right time to enable business processes.

  • Poor data interfaces between systems slows down processes.
  • Collecting data manually at the last minute risks processes.
  • Not fostering teams’ use of central systems will lead to local data stores.
  • Data held in local systems instead of centrally means different versions of ‘the truth’emerge.
  • Senior leaders do not have a view of data quality issues.

A proactive, rigorous, formal and cross functional change culture does not exist.

  • Change does not always require justification or approval.
  • It is hard to understand the impact when approving a change.
  • There is a poor understanding across the college of course information.
  • Changes are observed that are not understood.
  • Changes are not always done fully, leaving mop-up activities.
  • Mop-up work is often only done when needed, as a troubleshooting task.
  • Last minute changes are harder to manage than planned changes.


The aim of the project was to enhance the student experience and to ultimately digitalise paper-based processes.

The solution design prototype above describes how embracing the two personas of a Learner both the ‘Learner as a customer’ and the ‘Learner as a student’ offers a fresh approach that can add true value in an ever changing world.

The solution design prototype avoids historic and well used nomenclature as it creates an instant bias towards ‘As-Is’ historic ways of working, for example, names for events and collections of activities such as Admissions, Keep-Warm, Pre-enrolment, Enrolment and Induction.

“It was great to work with people who aren’t from our area who could suggest things that might work better just to question the processes”

CCF Project Team Member

We have years of experience in business management in both the private sector and in FE colleges. Our experience positions us to understand the problems faced by the Further Education Sector but with knowledge of what can be achieved outside the sector.