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Press Release

Student attendance and retention system aims for top marks

Business analytics from Barrachd point toward a predictive and pro-active approach to helping students complete their courses

Edinburgh – 18 October, 2011 – Barrachd, a preeminent business analytics firm that helps its customers improve their operations through identifying hidden patterns in their business data, is helping Telford College in Edinburgh reduce its student drop-out rates.

By analysing each aspect of a student’s background (age, qualifications, the number of associations they have joined, how far they have to travel to college) and assessing attendance rates, the system built by Barrachd will allow Telford College to predict which students are most at risk of dropping out.

Because it takes so many personalised factors into account, the system makes it possible for the college to put in place a plan for each student that will be more effective than any one-size-fits-all approach might be.

Grant Smith, Director at Barrachd, said: “For some at-risk students the issue might be one of settling into college life – perhaps they need some guidance on joining clubs that will help them feel at home there. For others there might be issues around the distance between home and college. Only by being aware of these factors can the college make sure they are offering the right kind of help to the right students.”

The Barrachd system has been developed using IBM Cognos software.

The Barrachd solution will also help the college meet its obligations in terms of external reporting. For example, it needs to report to the UK Borders Agency to ensure that the terms of overseas learners’ visas are being fulfilled.

Smith continued: “The pressure is on colleges and universities to avoid students leaving without completing their courses, failure to do so can be costly. No one is claiming predictive analysis will get it right in 100% of cases. But by spotting the patterns of past student behaviour, and laying on top of that real-time data such as attendance, it is possible to quickly and accurately build a picture of which individual students are at risk and what action is likely to be the most successful.”

Edinburgh’s Telford College provides further education and training for 20,000 students of all ages, primarily focusing on vocational courses and professional development. Based in Edinburgh, the College has 600 staff and works in partnership with a wide range of local, national and international organisations.

Lisa Dawson, IS Manager at Telford College, said: “Attendance is important for many reasons. If a learner isn’t attending many of their classes, they aren’t getting the full value of the course. Second, poor attendance can be an indicator that something is wrong. Third, there’s the financial aspect: government bursaries and Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) can only be awarded to learners who achieve certain attendance levels – and these bursaries are a vital part of many learners’ ability to finance their studies.”

“With our existing systems, whilst we could analyse the data, we struggled to present it in a way that was easy for staff and learners to understand. We wanted to introduce a tool that would help our learning development tutors identify and help learners before they drop out.”

About Barrachd
Barrachd is one of the UK’s leading providers of business analytics solutions that provide real insight into clients’ businesses and enable them to plan more effectively for the future. The company focuses on IBM Cognos and SPSS solutions, and also has expertise in IBM hardware installations – enabling it to provide an end-to-end service.

To learn more about Barrachd, visit:

Media contacts
Jen Andersson, Octopus Communications
08453 700 655