Using big data in higher education to inform strategic planning

Tue 18 Sep 2018

Discover how CEG Digital and Studyportals are using big data analysis to help universities develop the ‘right’ programme.

Using big data in higher education to inform strategic planning

By CEG Digital's Director of Business Development, Manuel Frutos-Perez.

On the 13th September I ran a seminar with Studyportals at the EAIE2018, the international conference of the European Association for International Education, on the use of big data in Higher Education (HE) to inform strategic planning.

Studyportals is CEG Digital's market research partner. Their dataset contains behavioural web analytics data from over 30 million unique users annually of the Studyportals websites (where users search for HE programmes).

During the session, Studyportals presented their dashboard product, the characteristics of their dataset and how it can be interrogated. I then explained what CEG Digital does (partnering with prestigious universities to develop high quality online Master's programmes) and how we use the dataset to inform our market research and strategic planning.

What makes a successful online programme?

I think what most interested the audience was my analysis of 'what makes a successful online programme'. I explained that choosing to develop the 'right' programmes is the most important decision making process in our partnerships with universities, and that making that process as robust and informed as possible was a priority for us.

Developing a successful online programme has 3 key ingredients:

  1. Academic subject expertise - this comes from the university

  2. Online learning expertise - this comes from CEG Digital

  3. Market intelligence - this is a triangulation of the market insights held by the university, CEG Digital and the big data analysis from Studyportals.

The Q&A

There were some insightful questions from the audience of higher education professionals at EAIE2018:

Question: “Why do we need big data? We (academic staff) already have a lot of knowledge about what programmes generate a lot of student interest.”

Answer: “There is no denial, experienced academic staff have very accurate intuition about what programmes resonate with students. However, big data analysis adds very important nuances to those intuitions: what are the parts of the world where that interest is stronger? What is the balance between supply and demand in those locations? What are the growth projections?


Question: “What else can big data do for us, is it just for market research and recruitment?”

Answer: “Big data has great potential to help universities enhance the learning experience of their students. For example learning analytics can detect patterns for learner behaviour that allows institutions to be proactive at supporting students.”


Question: “Why offer blended courses, wouldn't it be better to just offer 100% online? Isn't blended bad for recruitment?”

Answer: “It is important to stress that CEG Digital always aims for a high quality learning experience, and not recruitment at all costs. As educators we know that some programmes require a level of blend that will provide students with the skillset necessary to be successful in their careers. Sometimes 100% online is appropriate, sometimes it isn't, it is all about the particular programme and how to develop that curriculum for it to provide an outstanding learning experience.”


Question: “Isn't it better for students to attend the course on campus? It will give them more opportunities.”

Answer: “Not really. If the learning experience is great then students will reap its benefits. There is growing evidence that points to the value of international students remaining on location. For example, business management students benefit from being able to contextualise their developing skillset within their locality, engaging in critical analysis of current practices and applying theoretical models to their real-world experiences.”

Want to find out more?

If you’re looking to take your courses to a global online market, get in touch with CEG Digital's Director of Business Development, Manuel Frutos-Perez.

+44 (0)7787 429043


Share this story