Modern student information systems (SIS) are an essential tool for HEIs to maintain a competitive edge. Learn more how this powerful tool can curb costs, enhance operational efficiency and improve student outcomes.
It’s the same old story – new technology has been introduced, and organizations drag their feet, because “we’ve got sunk cost on our legacy systems, and it’s not worth the effort,” and so on. It’s becoming harder and harder to justify this attitude as technology updates sweep the world, changing how we do business on a daily basis.
Now, it’s been a challenging couple of years, especially with a global recession and rising inflation, which are likely to tighten funding for higher education institutions (HEIs) and place considerable constraint on educational spending. Not to mention the additional shift to online learning, which has placed these same HEIs in more direct competition with other education providers, and created more pressure to keep up with changes in the market.
As a result, HEIs will feel greater pressure to rein in costs, enhance operational efficiency and improve student outcomes. Modern student information systems (SIS) are an essential tool for higher education institutions (HEIs) to maintain a competitive edge.
Modern SIS streamline operational processes across HEIs, reduce administrative workload and improve efficiency. They additionally provide a comprehensive view of student data, integrate seamlessly with other systems and provide a smooth user experience for students and staff.
Yet the rapid move to online learning, brought about by the pandemic, pushed many HEIs to embrace new technologies in a piecemeal fashion. For example, adopting a new learning management system (LMS) while keeping their legacy SIS.
Building on their legacy systems rather than investing in a modern SIS opens universities up to new vulnerabilities and incompatibility issues. This lack of integration between a university’s legacy Student Information System and its new LMS can lead, for example, to work duplication for university staff, who may have to enter student or course data twice. Older systems also don’t offer the reliability of modern Student Information System (SIS), which run on multiple servers (cloud, hybrid or on-premises configurations) and are structured around microservices, keeping issues localized and preventing system-wide blackouts. A modern SIS should thus be at the core of a university’s digital transformation.
An SIS is also a powerful facilitator of the major curricular and business model shifts universities are implementing to better prepare students for the job market. Indeed, students expect their learning to lead them to jobs1, yet there is a skill gap2, and employers report needing graduates with stronger problem-solving, flexibility and communication skills.3
Universities are responding by upgrading their curricular to make learning more self-directed, collaborative and flexible. They are also entering into partnerships with industry to create new programs that provide learners with a blend of sought-after technical skills and important soft skills – a trend that’s likely to continue.4
A key part of making learning more flexible is breaking down rigid, standardized curricular structures and progression rules, which are proven barriers to learning and skill attainment,5 as well as moving away from teacher-centered methods of instruction that often turn students into passive learners.
As programs become increasingly self-directed and adaptable to the pace of the learner, and delivered via various modalities (hybrid, blended, in-person), a highly adaptive, scalable SIS can help students and administrators manage this complexity more efficiently.
Students need an SIS that makes it easy to navigate their academic affairs through their mobile devices. This includes the ability to – in a few clicks – register for classes, access learning resources, and view course progression options and prerequisites. Indeed, user-friendly SIS have been shown to build trust and satisfaction toward the university.6
Administrators need a simple-to-use SIS that helps them configure courses – often delivered across various campuses, countries and time zones – and determine whether facilities are being used to their full potential. They need to be able to quickly access and analyze data on student performance, attendance and other key metrics via dashboards and customizable data views.
This ready availability of data via SIS is particularly important as HEIs work with industry to create new courses and modify existing ones to keep in sync with the evolving needs of the labor market. HEIs need data to assess which of these new courses are performing well and what is effective in practice. Only a modern SIS that centralizes and unifies data in one platform can make these insights available on-demand.
University administrators also rely on the easy availability of this data to guarantee the accreditation and wider recognition of short courses geared toward the lucrative and growing market of lifelong learners, who are interested in stackable micro credentials that enable them to progressively gain skills and qualifications while in employment.
HEIs bear the primary responsibility when it comes to quality assurance of modules delivered by their partners. A modern SIS will make it much easier to gather the data required for their recognition, such as the quality and level of the program, a verified certificate, learning outcomes achieved, workload, assessment procedures and identification of the participant. Importantly, the gathering of this data can be automated by SIS, streamlining administrative work and freeing up staff time for other crucial and essential tasks.
Which begs the question – can universities afford to postpone their investment in a modern SIS? Already the competition is fierce, and without keeping up with the latest technology, they are guaranteed to fall further and further behind. The cost to not implement is high, but even higher to ignore what has been proven to be the future in higher education technology. Working without an updated SIS forces the HEI to play catch up, and in the end, the organizations and students will pay the price.
 QS’ 2022 survey of 110,000 prospective international students from 194 countries found that 56% of prospective students globally consider a high graduate employment rate to be the most important outcome metric when choosing a university.
QS. (2022). Global International Student Survey 2022: building resilience in global higher education, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, London.
 Since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, most countries have seen the supply of university graduates exceed the rate of growth in the number of high-skilled jobs.
ILO. (2020).Global employment trends for youth 2020: technology and the future of jobs, International Labour Office, Geneva.
 QS. (2022). What do employers want from today’s graduates? Insights from the 2022 QS Global Employer Survey, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, London.
 A recent PwC survey of senior higher education and business leaders found that only 44 percent of respondents thought their institution was doing a good job of strengthening partnerships with industry to become more internationally competitive. PWC.
In a recent HEPI survey of 1,105 students in the UK, 72% thought that at least 50% of courses should be co-designed with employers.
HEPI Policy Note 40. (2022). How can you help me?: Students’ perspectives on careers services and employment, Higher Education Policy Institute, Oxford.
 Yeld, N. (2016). A tertiary education for employability: transitions, curriculum, and employability. British Council
 Ismail, M., & Celebi, E. & Nadiri, H. (2019). How Student Information System Influence Students’ Trust and Satisfaction Towards the University?: An Empirical Study in a Multicultural Environment. IEEE Access. 10:1109.
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