Early evaluation of the Unistats web-site

09 May 2013

Early research into user experiences of the Unistats web-site, published today, shows that it is one of the most widely used higher education course comparison web-sites, and that universities and colleges rose well to the challenge of providing a new data set.

Since its launch in September 2012, the Unistats web-site has received over 3.8 million page views and over 175,000 unique visitors – an average of 984 new visitors per day. The site is used extensively by prospective higher education students, their parents, careers advisers, teachers and higher education staff.

The research, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Councils (note 1), looks at the site’s position in the market and how it is perceived and used, as well as issues such as navigation, search, filter and comparison functions, and data presentation. A separate report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) focuses on the experiences and views of higher education institutions (note 2).  

Key findings include:

  • The average length of visit to the site is over eight minutes (a long time compared with use of other web-sites).
  • Many users regarded the independent and authoritative nature of the site as one of its key strengths.
  • Prospective students, current students and parents were more positive about the site than careers advisers, teachers and higher education staff, and more likely to describe the site as ’useful’ and ‘easy to get around’.
  • Most users (73%) had come to the site directly by typing in the URL, rather than following a link from another web-site or from a search engine. Of those using a search engine, the majority (over 60%) searched for the term “Unistats”. The majority of referrals to the site have been from KIS adverts, or ‘widgets’, on university and college web-sites.

Both reports made a number of recommendations for improvements to the search and filter functions and the presentation of data. HEFCE and HESA are using these findings to inform the development of the site.  A number of changes have been made already, including enhancements to the search function. Improvements planned for September 2013 include:

  • the inclusion of a location marker for each course, allowing filtering by location of delivery
  • more uniform presentation of award and title of course
  • development of a communications strategy and a mobile-compatible version of the site. 

Longer-term recommendations will be considered as part of a wider review of the provision of higher education information which is due to report in 2014-15.

Notes

  1. ‘Early Evaluation of Unistats User Experiences’ was commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Councils and carried out by the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) in partnership with The Careers Research & Advisory Centre (CRAC). The research took place in the three months immediately after the launch of the new Unistats web-site, and included fieldwork observation of groups of users, an online survey, and web statistics analysis. Users included prospective and current students, parents, teachers, careers advisers, and higher education outreach workers.
  2. ‘Early Evaluation of KIS/Unistats Institutional perspective’, HESA, March 2013.

Page last updated 9 May 2013

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