Reporting on student equity targets
Queensland University of Technology is a major Australian university, based in Brisbane. With more than 45,000 students, QUT is focused on producing graduates fully equipped for the real world of today and tomorrow.
Like other universities in Australia that receive federal government funding, QUT is required to monitor the access, representation, success, retention and attrition of a range of student equity target groups designated by the Department of Education. This includes students from low socio-economic status (LSES) backgrounds.
At QUT, this activity is supported by the Reporting and Analysis section within the Division of Finance and Resource Planning. Wayne McCullough is QUT’s Director, Reporting and Analysis.
‘QUT provides the student equity data annually to the Department of Education as well as to a range of stakeholders within the university’s community,’ Wayne said.
‘This reporting supports the evaluation of the effectiveness of programs as well as monitoring our progress towards achieving the desired levels of student equity group representation.’
For many years, the Department of Education used the postcode method for the measurement of low SES, that is, the students’ postcode of permanent home residence, with the SES value derived from the 2006 SEIFA Education and Occupation Index for postal areas.
In 2010, the Department of Education introduced the more rigorous Statistical Area 1 (SA1) measure where the ABS Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) – Index of Education and Occupation is used to assign each SA1 with a score.
This involves using the longitude and latitude of the home address data of undergraduate students to identify the SA1 associated with each address and therefore, the appropriate SES ranking based on the SEIFA scores.
Wayne said the lack of access to geocoding software within the section’s business intelligence suite meant that QUT only had the capability to provide reports using the 2006 SEIFA postcode method.
‘QUT has long been committed to modernising its SES definition to keep up with changes arising from each new Census and from the Government’s changing preferences. Finding a way to geocode thousands of student addresses that was both sustainable and cost-effective proved to be a major obstacle,’ said Wayne.
Easy solution to the geocoding problem
‘When OMNILINK introduced us to PSMA Cloud, it quickly became clear that there was an easy solution to our geocoding problem that was also well within our budget.’
PSMA Cloud is a web service that provides geocoding, address verification as well as spatial attributes. It is designed to be implemented within existing business applications, removing the need for specialist applications or infrastructure to support, update or maintain location data.
Developed by PSMA Australia, PSMA Cloud accesses authoritative Australian national location datasets such as G-NAF and Administrative Boundaries to verify or find information.
OMNILINK, a property and location data management company, is a certified PSMA Cloud Integrator and has a proven success record in working with a range of organisations to access address verification and related mapping functions and workflows within a ‘pay as you go’ model.
‘OMNILINK has supported QUT to implement PSMA Cloud as part of a broader project to transform QUT’s reporting environment,’ Wayne said.
‘This included providing an API for PSMA Cloud which made it easy to incorporate within the reporting environment and was consistent with our strategy to introduce greater automation to ensure staff time is directed to high impact activities,’ he said.
‘In December 2015, we batch geocoded some 100,000 addresses which went really well. We have now put in place nightly batch processes to automatically identify new students and pull through updated addresses.'
Wayne said that QUT will start using the new geocoded format for reports from June 2016. In collaboration with the Equity Services Department, new reports were designed to accommodate this new data and, opportunistically, to completely re-vamp the reporting of student demographic and outcomes for all stakeholders, including those who work in the pre-tertiary domain.
‘Already, the sample reports we have produced have been really well received by the university community and there is a lot of interest in the information we can now provide,’ Wayne said.
Wayne said this information will particularly help inform the student support areas and provide better insights into the effectiveness of their programs as well as how to target these services.
‘Eventually, we will be able to produce reports and time series based on a number of different SES measures, with the choice depending on the specific purpose of the data. Having access to geocoded addresses offers a whole range of other opportunities from mapping student accommodation to looking at issues around travel and transport,’ Wayne said.
‘As PSMA Cloud also provides access to spatial attributes, we can also associate this with other information such as Local Government Areas and have found it really easy to build in additional metadata.’
Wayne said an important aspect of QUT’s commitment to real world learning is the strong program of work integrated learning.
‘This information can also help us to understand a whole gamut of issues around the location of the work placement to see if this is a factor in success of this program.’
Director, Reporting and Analysis
Queensland University of Technology