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Technology will become a differentiator for universities battling to attract students, says expert

Out-Law News | 05 Oct 2016 | 2:53 pm | 1 min. read

Universities that invest in technology stand to attract more of the best students to their courses in future, an expert has said.

Joanne McIntosh, a specialist in education technology contracts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said students are likely to place increasing weight on the type of technology universities and colleges make available to them when choosing which institutions and courses to attend.

"Technology will become a differentiator in years to come," she said. "A commitment by an institution to invest in new technologies for learning will shape a student’s perception of how forward thinking the institution is, and whether they are at the cutting edge of technology advancements."

McIntosh was commenting after the International Business Times recently reported that schools are lagging behind other organisations in their investment in digital technologies. However, the report recognised that schools are starting to recognise the importance of such investment and pointed to the fact that the business of education technology is now growing at a reported rate of 17% a year. The industry is set to be worth $250bn by 2020, the report said.

The article, however, highlighted a debate over the extent to which higher student grades can be linked by to an institution's investment in technology.

McIntosh said: "Although there is debate over whether education technology actually results in  an improvement in attainment and grades among students, certainly for the higher education sector, students nowadays expect technology to play a key part in their education experience – they are used to using technology in their everyday lives and have the same expectation when it comes to their university education. Universities therefore need to invest now in education technology to make sure they are not left behind."

Earlier this year McIntosh and colleague Chris Martin urged universities to create and implement a digital strategy to help exploit the potential of IT and meet the demands of students.

"The case for embracing technology is plain," they said. "The sector is under increased pressure – a challenging financial climate, combined with increased international competition, means that sustained improvement in teaching and research are vital in order to keep UK institutions relevant and competitive. Innovation and technology can shape, and reinforce, a student’s perception of an institution by demonstrating dedication to progress."

"Expectations of universities’ ability to provide advanced IT are rising – students expect access to first class technological solutions as part of their university experience. Institutions that fail to exploit the opportunities offered by technology will surely be left behind," they said.