Data driven

April 17, 2014

As a member of the group that was formed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to look into student information and which commissioned the report referred to in the article “More information results in better choices, right? Not so, Hefce learns” (News, 3 April), I would not want its findings to be misunderstood.

It would be a mistake to imagine that the excellent and nuanced report tells us we have “overdone it” in providing students with too much information. Yes, decision-making is not a wholly rational process, but there is in the mind of a prospective student a feedback loop between the impressionistic feelings on which they might base a decision and the facts that inform those feelings and also which facts they seek.

As a sector we need to support the best choices, not throw up our hands because students are not all data junkies. We need better information – particularly for students from backgrounds that do not surround them with guidance – and we need to get much better at making the information meaningful. We also need to get it to students early, so the facts can help to form impressions rather than merely justifying them.

Johnny Rich
Managing director, Push, and HE consultant

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