Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Will anyone come to your course?

Playing about on the UCAS web site I was looking at the links from pages to the course details that are contained for each course at each university. Some of these work very well, but some of them are extremely off-putting and could reduce the number of students choosing that course. After all, why struggle to find the details for a particular course when you could just look at the course at another university. Note that I am not making any comment on the information that is provided if and when you get there, but it is hugely variable in quantity and quality.

Anyhow, here are just some of the problems that I found. I will not name the universities as I am sure that there are others that are equally bad as I only looked at a small sample from a small number of universities. NB in some cases I have emailed the university to let them know.

  • 404: The link is to a page that does not exist. In some cases this is because the web site has been restructured and so the page does exist, but in another directory. Quick solutions would include correcting the URLs and re-sending to UCAS, restructuring the web site to match the URLs in the UCAS website or using redirects
  • link to a log in page. Yup at least two universities the course details take you to a log in page without any way of registering, and in once case not even a link to the University's home page. As the link id looks as though it is specific to the course it looks like the security settings are wrong.
  • Generic link either to the university home page or to the prospectus or a course search page. This is just lazy. The link should be direct to the information on that course. Typically it takes around 5 links to find the information from there, so you could lose an awful lot of people who decide it is easier to look elsewhere
  • Failure to provide any information. Yup, some universities don't even bother to provide any information on course details at all, or any way of finding them. the prospective student would have to choose to go to the web site from a generic information page about the university and then find the course.
  • Null information. Whether internally on the UCAS site or linking to the university site there is no point in linking to a page with no information. One university there are a set of links under the heading "studying x at Y university" with sub-headings like year 1, year 2 etc. Click on any of them and you get to a page with a set of matching headings and no information there at all.
  • Links to pdf versions of prospectus. not very friendly really.
  • Out of date information. on one site it said: [course] (4 years) - 2009 Entry. This is for the 2012 entry (and the link to the page says that too). Doesn't look very professional does it?

So, I suggest that every admissions office (or marketing department) check their UCAS entries and what they link to. I would also suggest that you look at what other universities have done as there are few that could not be easily improved.

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