AGR Blog

2017: the year of data in student recruitment


AGR Chief Executive Stephen Isherwood welcomes the year ahead and looks at why 2017 should be a milestone year for using data in student recruitment.


This weekend’s papers had a sugar fixation about just how much our New Year selves should be consuming. I’ve just looked at the ingredients list of my lunchtime tomato soup. 20 grams of sugar! I knew there would be some, but really, 20 grams. That’s five teaspoons worth.

And how do I know this? Data. Listed on the back of each tin are ingredients by weight and a quick google search tells me if this amount is good or bad. So, how many of us noted the test data release of law student earnings by university?

This is the first taste of the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) salary data by subject that the government could be releasing this summer. Data that links HMRC income tax returns to student loan records and is being placed in the hands of prospective students.

Now salary information isn’t as clearly digestible as the amount of sugar in my soup. Regional variations, time lag, personal circumstances, can all play a part in career outcomes and many factors don’t have much to do with the university a student chooses. But this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made available. The financial investment a student makes is magnitudes greater than my purchase of soup, so why shouldn’t they have as much data as possible to guide their decisions?

Data and how it is used is going to challenge many of the ways we make decisions in student recruitment 2017.

Here is another example from an employer. An analyst recently demonstrated to me how one of an organisation’s most experienced (and senior) interviewers was less accurate than a coin-toss in predicting success. How was this found out? By mining five years of recruitment and progression data and searching LinkedIn for the outcomes of rejected candidates.

From sourcing to offer to acceptance, the range of data available to employers can dispel many illusions about the way we have always recruited. Just consider how many organisations have now ditched the use of academic cut-offs as data has proven that good candidates are being turned away.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”, goes the famous quote from Henry Ford.

But it’s very hard to resist doing things we have always done, especially if we are time poor and under pressure. That’s why there is a debate around banning sugar. It’s why the government is forcing change through the Teaching Excellence Framework and publishing salary data.

One way to get ahead of the change curve is to get to the data before someone else does and use it to drive necessary change in your organisation. Make 2017 the year you drive value from information assets and see your student recruitment efforts soar.


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