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Bringing Simplify, Collaborate, Deliver to life through the undergraduate admissions process is a prime example of successful crossfunctional working. Despite actual process improvements since the implementation of a new paperless system in 2013, the undergraduate admissions process was taking too long. In addition, other external pressures and increased competition meant turnaround times and customer service needed to improve. IT system changes would take time, so improvements would need to come in other ways. Urgent action was needed.

The solution: Update process, staffing models and training

A solutions-focused ‘rapid improvement’ workshop between admissions staff and academic department representatives took place in August 2014 to plan for the 2015 entry UCAS process. Major effort within the undergraduate admissions team ensured that the new arrangements for 2015 entry processing were planned, consulted upon and put in place in September 2014 with immediate results:

  • Training was redesigned to enable intensive training and rapid feedback at any point in the cycle
  • The optimum number of staff required to meet productivity targets was calculated to smooth out the ‘lumpiness’ of the admissions process
  • ‘Right first time’ targets were included to enhance transparency and accountability
  • The number of process steps was significantly reduced and decision making simplified.
The outcome: improved conversion

We’ve seen real changes in undergraduate admissions outputs as a result of this collaboration, as well as improvements to process, staffing models and training:

  • 2015 entry UCAS processing began a month earlier than previous years with first decisions released on 15 September 2014
  • Output increased from an average of 23 decisions per person per day to 60 per day
  • 17,262 decisions were processed by the end of December 2014 compared to 7,909 decisions in 2013, a 218% increase
  • There was a reduction in median turnaround from 56 days to eight calendar days
  • Fewer queries were received (i.e. ‘failure demand’ reduced) and those could be answered more quickly — average response times went down from 1-2 weeks to 1-2 days
  • Quicker turnaround times on decisions gave applicants a positive first impression of Warwick and the number of applicants firmly accepting their offers increased by 5%.

Making improvements to the admissions system in which they all participated made staff feel more valued. There was a sense that they had all worked together to achieve real transformative outcomes. In turn, team members have become champions for SCD across the institution, actively participating in further developments across a host of activities such as research contracts, procurement and estates maintenance. Colleagues feel empowered and valued through these considerations, and have become key contributors in the University’s success.

The success of the transformation has been recognised with the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management award for Outstanding Admissions Team.