Student Progression: ESCAPES Project at the University of Nottingham

Photo of a brass compassThe JISC funded ESCAPES (Enhancing Student Centred Administration for Placement ExperienceS) project at the University of Nottingham has focussed on improving the management of its placement process for both staff and students. As employers are more likely to take on graduates with work experience, students may be more likely to choose a course that has a placement element.


The relationships between teaching staff, administrative staff, students and businesses are an essential part of effective placement management. Challenges from the institution’s viewpoint included:

  • a variety of unconnected processes used across the institution
  • finding a way to ensure that common good practice was recorded and shared
  • being able to record baseline placement data for employability statistics without imposing any centralised control across schools.


As well as some technological improvements, the project has resulted in a number of benefits for both staff and students, including:

  • improved adminstrative efficiency from streamlining processes and extra facilities for data reporting; for example, it is now possible to identify students who make a number of unsuccessful placement applications in order to provide them with additional support
  • more effective management of relationships with students whilst they are on placement; such as providing a single point of contact and improved methods of communication
  • a number of enthusastic champions of good practice across the University have been identified as a result of the project.


For placement processes to be handled effectively, it is recommended that:

  • senior management and practitioners are encouraged to be champions in good practice for placements with the role of a placement co-ordinator acting as a central conduit for relationships and communication
  • when implementing such a project, staff need to “talk to people on their terms” to win them over and to promote an understanding of what people are doing and why; communication is key and can help enable “change by stealth”
  • remember that the learning and administrative aspects of the placement process are co-dependent and that technology alone cannot replace the human element.

Further Information

If you would like to find out more about this project, the following resources may help:

Come and chat about CRM on our new list!

Team of people sitting together We’ve just started a new JISCMail Discussion List for anyone who wants to talk about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in the HE (Higher Education) and FE (Further Education) sectors.

The CRMinHEFE list is a space for all stakeholders to discuss the implementation of CRM as a process and as a technology. It’s focus is on the strategic, cultural change, systems management, etc aspects of CRM, rather than on the detailed installation issues of vendor specific systems.

If you’re using the JISC Good Practice in Customer Relationship Management Online Handbook, then you can talk about that here too. There’s also a short blog post about the Handbook.

If you’re looking for a more generic Relationship Management list or one that focuses more on SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management), then our sister list RMinHEFE might be more your style.

Other resources include the Just Enough Relationship Management website with a section on BCE (Business and Community Engagement) CRM, the JISC CETIS Relationship Management website as well as the #rminhe Twitter tag.

So come and join us!

Spiders, Shepherds, and The Monkees: Supporting the RM Programme

Photo of spiderweb with waterdroplets“Hello. My name’s Sharon and I’ve been supporting the JISC funded RM (Relationship Management) Programme.” I haven’t just stepped into Programme Supporters Anonymous, but as I’ve been looking back over my time supporting the Programme, I just thought I’d share some of my reflections.

I’ve been supporting the RM Programme since 2009, when Phase 1 started. Phase 2 has just finished and apart from the synthesis work and a couple of bits and bobs, the support aspect has pretty much finished. This has given me the time to look back and reflect on the Programme from a Programme Support angle.

So what does Programme Support entail? Without going into all the gory details, for me, it has been all about building relationships, getting to know the project work and the project teams. It’s been about encouraging the teams, sharing in their highs and lows. It’s been about providing advice and guidance – or at least pointing people to where they can find it. It’s been about acting as a neutral interface between the funders (JISC Programme Managers, who have also been very supportive) and the project teams. And to quote The Monkees, it’s been about “knowing when to keep and when to share”.

Now that the current phase of the Programme has come to an end, I will miss my contact with the project teams. This phase of the Programme has had an extra layer of interaction in the form of five hard-working and very useful Critical Friends, and to some extent I did feel that I missed out on hearing about some of the key moments in the projects’ story – a bit like only seeing a child every couple of months and suddenly realising how much they’ve grown. However, I tried to make up for this by having regular telephone calls with the projects and keeping the communication channels open. I hope they found them useful and they certainly helped me try and build up a mental picture of the Programme as a whole. In some respects, I’ve felt a bit like a spider at the centre of a web, periodically pinging all the strands, making sure everyone’s OK, and weaving together a picture of RM in HE and FE. I’ve also felt like a shepherd, gently herding everyone down to the summer pastures (their final case studies and deliverables for JISC).

Perhaps I am looking back on my time with the project teams with rose-tinted glasses, particularly now that I’m involved in writing up the overall Programme outputs. Perhaps too, the project teams may have wanted something different in terms of support (I’ll know when I’ve collated their evaluation comments); but for me, the RM Programme has been all about the management of relationships and the delight in seeing the projects grow and progress.

PS: The Monkees song is “Shades of Gray” (but that’s a whole other story).

Spider web photo by andrewatla.

Developing a CRM Good Practice Handbook for the Tertiary Education Sector

Photo of a row of red-spined booksThe University of Huddersfield and Teesside University have been working together to produce an online CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Good Practice Handbook. The Handbook aims to guide HE (Higher Education) and FE (Further Education) institutions through the development of strategic BCE (Business and Community Engagement) CRM processes, as well as provide advice and guidance on data management and change management. It contains a number of case studies and examples from the tertiary education sector.


The aim of the project was to deliver an online Handbook in CRM Good Practice, however there were some challenges along the way:

  • although the Handbook was validated by a cross-section of HE institutions, it was harder to engage the FE sector to the same extent due to the rapid changes taking place in that sector
  • a large amount of consultation was undertaken to ensure that the Handbook matched the needs of the sector
  • routes into the content needed a lot of thought and discussion.


The Handbook is now complete and will be launched at the AURIL (Association for University Research and Industry Links) Conference in October 2012. Other benefits resulting from this project are:

  • an increased interest in BCE CRM
  • the addition of sections based on user feedback, such as information on how to use Business Intelligence and how to use the data captured in a CRM system
  • interest in establishing a CRM community of practice from those taking part in the research.


Current Government policy is to bring the HE sector and industry closer together and the building of such external relationships can have an impact on helping institutions pursue distinctiveness in the sector. Some of the recommendations from the Handbook include:

  • CRM should be considered as a culture that encourages people to place the needs of the customer at the heart of everything they undertake
  • senior management buy-in, and a senior management stakeholder or champion, is vital
  • it is important before even considering purchasing a CRM system that time is taken to understand how CRM can support and be integrated into the institution’s overall vision and strategy.

Further Information

If you would like to find out more about this project, the following resources may help:

Disenchanted with the world? Try RM for that warm and glowing feeling

Daisy with multi-coloured petals and dewdropsBar a few loose ends, the JISC funded RM (Relationship Management) Programme has now come to an end for the all the project teams involved. We’re just in the process of pulling all the project case studies together and will be producing a Compendium of Best Practice in RM over the next few months, which will showcase some of the key successes of the Programme.

I’ve been supporting the RM Programme since 2009 and feel privileged to be allowed to follow the ups and downs of all the projects involved. Although I’ve been acting as a neutral interface between JISC and the funded projects, to some extent I have been wearing a semi-JISC hat, yet all the project teams have been willing to share their “warts and all” experiences, sometimes privately, sometimes publicly. It’s not always easy to build up a relationship where project teams feel comfortable doing that. Projects have told me things that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable telling their funders (although Myles Danson and Simon Whittemore, the JISC RM Programme Managers are lovely to work with) and this has allowed me to build up a good mental picture of RM across the whole Programme.

I have to say that I have great admiration for all the project teams involved. They’ve worked extremely hard to really try and make a difference to the students and customers in their institutions, and that hard work has paid off. I wish them all success as they continue to improve all aspects of relationship management in their institutions.

Team of people sitting together Aside from improving the customer experience (student or business), for me one of the key successes across the whole of the RM Programme has been that people are now talking to each other: staff talking to students about what they need, staff talking to staff in other departments, and people sharing their experiences with people in other institutions. Relationships have been built. Communication channels have been opened. This is really what relationship management is all about. It’s about breaking down barriers, understanding another person’s point of view, sharing experiences (good and bad) and coming together to try and make things work a bit better for everyone.

Now that the Programme has ended, I will miss following the project work as many of the teams continue their efforts beyond the funding period, as well as missing contact with the individuals involved. From a personal point of view, it’s been a joy and pleasure working with the RM projects, getting to know the people in the project teams, following project successes and failures and seeing everyone safely through to the end. It’s this warm and fuzzy feeling that makes it all worth it. It’s what building relationships (and relationship management) is all about.

Come and join us!

Paper cut-outs of people in a circle

Are you interested in improving your BCE CRM (Business and Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management) processes to help increase revenue streams? Do you want to find out about SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management) and putting the student at the heart of the process?

If so, come and join our RM in HE/FE Community of Practice discussion list, which is open to anyone who wants like to share their experiences of improving their relationship management in the tertiary education sector. We’d love you to ask questions, comment, suggest resources etc, or just follow the conversation.

We’ll be sharing our findings from the current JISC Relationship Management Programme, which is looking at three different areas:

  • Good Practice in CRM – delivering a comprehensive online handbook of good practice in CRM processes for HE and FE.
  • Student progression, retention and non-completion – using service desing to improve the quality of the student experience.
  • Alumni engagement – using web technologies to support mutally beneficial alumni engagement.

We have a range of resources available at both the JISC CETIS RMSAS (Relationship Management Support, Analysis and Synthesis) project website and at the Just Enough RM (Relationship Management (a dynamic resource to try and help anyone starting out on the RM path). We also have documents on using Service Design in HE and FE and an overview to RM in HE and FE to get you started.

So what are you waiting for? Come and join the RM in HE and FE Community – we’d love to see you there!

Relationship Management in UK HE and FE Report Now Available

Photo of a handshake

Relationship management is becoming increasingly important in the tertiary education sector as education institutions try to meet the challenges of funding cuts and increased student and community expectations. Customer relationships, if handled effectively, will bring benefits to both the organisation and the sector as a whole and it is in this area that JISC developed the Relationship Management Programme.

The first phase of the JISC Relationship Management Programme ran from July 2009 to April 2010. The Programme, supported by the JISC CETIS RMSAS (Relationship Management Support, Analysis and Synthesis) project, was divided into two strands and was :

  • BCE CRM (Business and Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management) Strand – aimed to improve business processes and to pilot and extend the BCE CRM SAF (Self-Analysis Framework). Twelve universities and one FE college used the SAF to examine factors affecting the people and processes that could affect the implementation or uptake of CRM (both as an approach and as a technology). BCE CRM includes employers and other external customers, who may have the potential to help the sector navigate through the current choppy waters of tertiary education sector funding. Good customer relationship management is vital in order to maintain and develop such relationships.
  • SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management) – focussed on improving the student experience by putting the student at the heart of the process. Six universities and one FE college trialled service design techniques at different stages of the student lifecycle in order to identify areas for improvement. As students clearly exhibit certain customer attributes, such as paying for a service and expecting higher levels of choice, quality and experience, it therefore seems appropriate to apply such commercial techniques, in order to improve the student experience, the institution’s efficiency and retention.

Whilst the two strands can be viewed as focusing on two different types of institutional stakeholder – external business contacts in the case of the BCE CRM strand and students in the SLRM strand – many of the issues regarding the way in which the relationship is managed by the institution are similar. For example:

    • Ensure that an effective CRM strategy is in place, and that is disseminated to and understood by staff.
    • Use a framework to help your institution ask fundamental questions about the people, processes and systems currently in place, prior to making any decisions regarding improvements or attempting to purchase or implement a technical CRM system, because this will go a long way to help avoid potential pitfalls and dangerous assumptions.
    • Strong commitment from senior management is vital if CRM is to succeed.
  • SLRM
    • The institution should not assume that it knows what students want, need and expect.
    • Service improvements do not have to cover the whole service, e.g. enrolment, in one go – small adjustments can be made that can actually make a huge difference to the student experience.
    • Improving the effectiveness of a process can also improve efficiencies.

The current funding situation means that institutions need to become more cost-effective. Therefore, making the most of the systems already in place, improving processes, and ensuring that the student or BCE customer has a valuable experience may help achieve this goal.

This findings from this Programme are now available in PDF format: Relationship Management in UK Higher and Further Education – An Overview (Perry, S., Corley, L., and Hollins, P 2011). Phase 2 of the JISC Relationship Management Programme is now in full swing.