One of the reasons why students must enrol and then renew their enrolment each year, is to satisfy the HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England). Essentially we need to be able to prove to them that we are actually teaching all the students for whom we are claiming funding.
Even when a course is not HEFCE funded, they still need to know the total number of students we are teaching in order to assure the quality of our provision. HEFCE are entitled to audit us without notice.
At previous audits HEFCE auditors have asked to see enrolment records for each student, complete with signature. We have done extensive checking to ensure that our online enrolment and re-enrolment systems have the legal status of a contract, and that when the student presses the submit button an electronic signature is deemed to have been given. The enrolment and re-enrolment systems write these signatures back to the live student database in a locked table. This is not accessible by staff.
Essentially if we simply marked students' records as enrolled without requiring them to complete the process, we would not have the audit trail HEFCE requires us to keep. This potentially means we would lose funding for the number of students to whom this was found to apply.
Equally, enrolment and re-enrolment are legal contracts, and members of staff do not have legal authority to enter into binding contracts on behalf of students.