Intro

70,000 Students get accepted through clearing each year. No one plans for this because no student plans to fail their exams. The clearing process is well described by UCAS but only the most organised students quickly get new offers (as they proactively call universities)

Over the clearing month, universities get thousands of call from students asking if they have course places available. A quicker and more efficient way to do this is to eliminate the need for call centres and replace the application process with an online portal where students can log in and select the courses they would like to apply for.

Through user research we had discovered that students struggled to track new clearing openings per day, even for universities they already had their sights set on. Available information about when to call and what to talk about during a call with a university was also confusing to students, resulting in an unnecessary increase in university call volume from wasted calls which resulted in nothing.

Methodology

Simple is better than complex was the moto for our project. Our ambition was to create a streamlined user experience where students could quickly and efficiently look up courses available for clearing. The platform aims to be as transparent as possible, allowing students to get a quick understanding if they have a chance of getting on a course. In particular this was achieved by outlining UCAS points requirements, the number of vacant spaces on a course, and the UCAS points of students who have already voted for a vacant spot.

Process

We chose this project because of Andrew Tuckers amazing energy, which really motivated us all to get stuck in the the project. We followed an agile methodology to develop the product. We chose the team people we felt we could all complement each others abilities. Dan project managed the team, keeping us on track for deadlines. Hilary was in charge of wire framing and UX/UI. Samir was our front end developer and worked closely with Tom on the backend to develop the application. Pretty incredible how you can meet people from every corner of the world (Romania, Nepal, Australia, UK) and all work to a common goal!

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges for Samir and Tom was source control. Both had limited experience of github and ran in to a few conflicting file issues when pushing our code (turns our you should always gitignore your database files!). Otherwise the development process was pretty smooth using rapid development tools like django and bootstrap.

Solutions

We were very surprised that the clearing process still all happens over the phone and strongly believe a web application could replace this. Some of the features we considered included:

1) A way to pre-apply for clearing spots (this one doesn't come with guarantees though, you get notified if the uni you apply to clearing for turns out to not offer clearing in the end)

2) A space on the page dedicated to new clearing openings, or a space for Russell group openings, personalized to you as you select your course choice;

4) A way to notify students about courses fit for them, which only notifies if they have a chance of meeting the requirements;

5) Introduces more transparency by using a pool, where it can display number of applicants in the pool, closing date of the pool, Linkedin jobs style. Bonus of reducing risk of university overenrolment, as universities are charged high fees for accidental overenrolment. (note, periods for students to accept the offer are still very short, just in case students accept another clearing offer, the clearing spot is 'held' by them for a short period of time before refreshing);

Details of the pool, the new system of getting a student through clearing: In terms of applying, the system is based off a pool. When a student applies for a clearing spot, the application is auto-completed with documents they can previously upload (Personal Statement, References, Transcripts, UCAS points). Within the pool, students are ranked based off their score totals. (another future implementation we can include is an ATS-esque AI word recognition system that can assign extra scores by looking through their personal statements for key buzzwords that can gauge student motivation for the course, which replaces the need for a rushed phone interview). Once the clearing period closes, the top n number of students secure their clearing spot, and they are notified instantly, reducing uncertainty.

To monetize the app, a commission fee is charged upon student acceptance. We had previously considered a simple bidding system, where a student with the highest bid would be given a larger weight when ranking students. However, this introduces a massive risk of income discrimination and is very counterproductive when it comes to helping people in lower-income brackets enter higher education.

6) Information about the university, such as student satisfaction scores or campus information, on the same page users don't leave the site (increased interaction cost) when researching the university. This meets the user need of students who still wanted to research courses despite being in clearing.

7) Sign-up feature: name, mail, password and key questions and answer, address,when they want to start, which subjects represent interest them. This will be used to tailor courses specifically for the student.

8) Cleary outline requirements for every university. In particular UCAS points as this is the ranking system.

9) Criteria like distance learning/in campus, with kind of certificate they will receive if graduate;

10) A page with all applications to universities and status and decision: unconditional offer, conditional offer, reject, withdrawal, full, invitation;

11) Matcher between students interests and universities programs.

We hope you enjoyed our project!

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