Blog: StARS - 2020-21 in review

By Julie Scarratt, StARS Programme Director

As we begin to look forward to the next academic year, I wanted to take a moment to recap the many improvements and successes StARS has delivered over the last year or so.

Like everyone else, the team has continued to prove flexible and adaptable to the challenge of making progress while working almost entirely remotely from one another and our many partners across the University. Your input and support is fundamental to the progress of StARS and to the benefits we have been able to realise so far, and will realise in future.

Enabling technology and systems

While largely achieved “behind the scenes”, major strides have been taken to implement new functionality for Banner, our student records system: Banner Document Manager, Workflow and Ethos were all successfully installed in October 2020. These are important because they are the technical platform for much of what StARS will deliver for the remainder of its lifetime.

The first service release to use these was the redesigned leave of absence process for postgraduate research students, which went live in June this year (see below).

The first phase of “managed service” for Banner (i.e. managed remotely by the supplier, Ellucian, rather than on-site by IT Services) went live in February 2021. This reduces the business-as-usual resource burden on IT Services, freeing them up to spend more time on initiatives that contribute to improving the student and staff experience.   

But the managed service is really only a step on the longer journey towards moving Banner to the cloud, which will make our student records system fit for the future, more resilient, and far less burdensome to maintain. On this front, the necessary cloud “environments” and other foundational work is well underway.

Good progress has also been made with the curriculum data restructure, which will provide the platform for future changes to the University’s education offer under the Programme Framework for the Future. Following a period of significant and thorough preparation, Registry’s Curriculum Management Team started the build in May. The team is currently progressing on schedule for completion in 2022.

Reporting and data

The technical foundations for student reporting requirements across StARS have also been established in recent months: Microsoft Azure cloud services (the new “data lake” for the University) and the cloud-based Snowflake reporting platform (to ultimately replace the existing Data Warehouse). Since the installation of Snowflake, some 72 million rows of data have been migrated from the Data Warehouse.

The ultimate goal of StARS’ work in the data and reporting space is to enable the University to access scalable, agile and responsive student data reporting and analytics, including by establishing a “single source of truth” for student data.

The Reporting and Data Project will be working with stakeholders throughout 2021-22 to work out how best to start implementing this new reporting capability.

Service and process improvements

Responding to some of the University’s urgent needs last summer in light of Covid-19, we reprioritised our plans to help the University work around the constraints of off-campus provision of student services.

My Right to Study

In July 2020 My Right to Study was delivered in partnership between StARS and the International Student Team (IST) in Student Services.

Through My Right to Study (RTS), international students can now complete their RTS check online and in advance of travelling to the UK, replacing the old in-person checks that used to result in long queues for students and a huge administrative burden for the IST.

My Proof of Study

In September 2020 My Proof of Study was launched, allowing students to access letters confirming their student status online.

Moving this key service online and away from the Student Hub speeds up the process for students, gives them more control, and makes the experience look and feel more like what they are used to in their day-to-day lives. Offering a more modern user experience is key to the improvements StARS will continue to make to various aspects of student administration.

For staff, My Proof of Study reduced an administrative burden that in previous years amounted to an average of 27,000 in-person letter requests a year, roughly a third of all visits to the Student Hub.

Moving both My Proof of Study and My Right to Study online contributed to the safe reopening of campus by reducing the need for in-person contact.

PGR leave of absence

After a long-term collaboration between StARS and many colleagues across the University, a new and improved PGR leave of absence process was released in June 2021.

The new process is speeding up decisions and actions to support students; reducing the administrative burden on students and staff; and making the student and staff experience more consistent across Colleges and Schools. 

One of the first users, from the College of Arts and Law, described it as, "A brilliant, intuitive system which will be of huge benefit to us all." 

Looking ahead

This autumn will see a number of “releases” delivered in quick succession:

  • My Attendance, a digital attendance capture solution for face-to-face timetabled sessions
  • My Additional Considerations, a leaner and more user friendly route for students to apply for support
  • Leave of absence for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students
  • My Details, a new and improved way for students to update their personal details

Look out for more news about all of these.

Meantime, I hope you enjoy the remainder of the summer, and I and the team look forward to engaging further with all colleagues who will be impacted – and benefitted – by this next round of improvements.


Professional Services