England’s Department for Education (DfE) faced major obstacles with its further education providers’ application processes. Cumbersome, document-intensive processes for students, lengthy data entry and verification challenges for universities, combined with struggles to pull simple, relevant data from numerous third-party systems, led the DfE to pursue a student credentials verification solution.
The DfE partnered with Methods to simplify the verification of student credentials, meaning students can apply to programmes in minutes instead of days – cutting down verification times from weeks to just hours.
Tom Beresford, Programme Director at the Department for Education said “By verifying student credentials efficiently and sharing the relevant information at the point of interaction, we could make the system much easier for everyone to navigate.”
“Our research shows that navigating the system is difficult, time consuming, and stressful for students,” says Lynne Burdon, Product Owner for Project Titan at the Department for Education. “They don’t always have access to passports and all the other documents a programme needs.” Programmes and applications are also not standardised. Therefore students must re-enter the same data again and again. After applications are submitted, programmes can take up to four weeks to verify for eligibility.
Burdon also highlights those students with learning challenges and disabilities who don’t often let their educational institutions know that they need support, limiting their full potential. “We need a way for students to own their data, share it with their further education providers, and get the support they need to get their qualifications” she says. “Higher failure and withdrawal rates occur when students don’t share this information.”
Burdon’s team found that providers were just as unhappy with the way education data was handled. They cited the excessive time and cost involved with gathering and manually entering the data, verifying its accuracy, and verifying the student.
The focus on students was placed as the key source of data, in order to allow them a single identity that would track their entire academic career, and provide the DfE rich insights from the data that would drive optimal programme funding.
Hal Angseesing, Solution Architect for Decentralised Identity at Methods commented:
“We knew that we could help DfE make much better use of its enormous data store. It’s exciting to see how much benefit we can create by giving control back to the students—the owners of that data.” Angseesing goes on to note that as an alternative, the DfE could have given each student a unique learner number, which would give the department full access to the student’s records. But that goes against the DfE’s privacy-first ethos. The data about programme enrolment gathered from students using their verifiable credentials can be anonymised, putting the right statistics in the right hands as needed – no less and no more.
Using Microsoft Entra Verified ID to verify credentials for students also cuts out the time needed to verify exam results so that students can register for follow-on courses. “This is not about technology,” says Angseesing. “This is absolutely about students’ needs. Now they have an easy way to see all their DfE records.” With the new solution, students can apply to a programme within minutes rather than days. And that four-week waiting period for application verification can take a single afternoon.
Standardising on a single student information system for all universities in the United Kingdom’s system could amount to £300 million in cost savings.
Excerpts taken from Microsoft’s ‘UK Department for Education raises career potential for the next generation with Microsoft Entra Verified ID‘ customer story. You can read the full article here.