Universities Minister launches open data competition

Coders and tech companies to develop new digital tools for students

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has launched a £125,000 competition for tech companies and coders to develop new digital tools to help students pick the university course that is best for them.

The new tools will help level the playing field between applicants, giving all students access to evidence on earnings and employment outcomes from different degrees.

Recent research published by the Government has shown that what students study and where really matters to their future life chances. In many other areas of life, from utility bills to hospital care, technology has put better information at our fingertips. These new tools will help enable a similar revolution in transparency in Higher Education.

The competition, which opened on 25 June, will harness the creativity, talent and ingenuity of coders and developers to design accessible digital tools, such as mobile apps, that will make it easier for young people to find out what they might earn if they choose a particular subject at a specific university.

This is part of a wider revolution in transparency in Higher Education data - the government is already publishing a wide range of data including on likely earnings and employability and teaching quality at universities, also known as TEF. Sam Gyimah now wants to make it even easier for young people to use information like this to help choose where to study.

Research published by DfE concluded that when students are choosing a university, major influences include the potential for higher future earnings. Once developed, the new digital tools will analyse public data so students and their families can more easily compare and contrast information including average salary outcomes by subject and by university at the touch of a button. The data could also be compared with other data sets, covering issues such as cost of living and travel.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:

"Going to university is one of the single biggest investments a person will make in their lifetime. So it is vital prospective students have all the right information in an easily accessible format to help them decide where to study.

"Technology and data have radically improved the experience of customers in a range of sectors, from energy to healthcare to shopping. It’s time for a transparency revolution to improve student choice in higher education.

"These tools could make a real difference to people’s lives by helping them choose a university that will harness their potential so they can go on to reach the top of their field."

Contracts of up to £25,000 including VAT will be awarded to successful bidders to create a prototype that could be then taken on for further development. The aim of the competition is to spur private sector innovation, and we are providing the seed funding to cover the costs of the initial research and development.

Interested coders or tech companies who would like to find out more about this exciting opportunity should apply via Innovate UK’s website.

In support of the competition, the Department for Education is running a series of events in collaboration with the Open Data Institute, who have a strong track record in running competitions to encourage better use of public data in fields from housing to energy use. Further information is available on the ODI’s website.

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