One of the UK’s largest universities and research institutes, the University of Nottingham is ranked in the top 20 of several major UK league tables and listed in the top 100 universities worldwide. It boasts novelist D. H. Lawrence among glittering alumni and is responsible for many ground-breaking inventions including the MRI scanner. About 45,000 students from around the world are spread across multiple campuses in Nottingham and in Malaysia and China. With strong links to other universities and companies worldwide, Nottingham offers over 800 courses covering everything from medicine, science and engineering to social sciences and the arts.
The State of Play
Student income is the largest income stream for the University of Nottingham, and each year the university must forecast its student population and the related income in order to allocate departmental budgets. The planning and performance team is responsible for collecting and analyzing up to nine million records of data on thousands of students across the globe to model expected student numbers and activity accurately.
However, with 56 departments requiring deep levels of analytical granularity and five-year forecasts, calculations are complex. By 2015, the team desperately needed a more dynamic student planning model that would allow increased granularity and subsequently improve decision making, whilst working alongside Tableau’s data visualization. The task would be to handle all reporting for student planning and forecasting as well as verifying data for HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), the body that collects quantitative data about higher education in the UK.
The team had earlier replaced Microsoft Excel with IBM Cognos planning and business intelligence software to cope with scalability needs but keeping the data warehouse relevant was difficult and expensive. Utilizing Tableau was relieving some limitations but querying and data preparation were still problematic.