The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

Upgrading existing self-serve portal and statistics web app for a complaints review body in higher education sector.

Providing Students with a Free and Quicker Alternative to the Courts

The UK government has designated The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to independently review complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales. Compared to the courts, this provides students with a free and quicker alternative to seek remedies when something goes wrong during their studies. The OIA also shares learning to help improve policies and practices across the higher education sector in order to prevent complaints from arising in the first place.

The Opportunity

The OIA has two custom web applications that required attention when Blitz Effect came onboard.

Self-serve Portal

The first one is a self-serve portal for students and higher education providers. It allows students to submit complaints about higher education providers online and track the progress of their complaint. Higher education providers have access to the same information too and can keep track of all outstanding complaints about them in one place. The portal links directly to an internal case management system for data synchronisation.

Annual Statements Web App

The second web application enables the OIA to publish complaint and appeal statistics about higher education providers in England and Wales. Each higher education provider gets an online annual statement each year with contextualised information about them. This information is publicly accessible and is one of a kind in the higher education sector. The web app allows the OIA to process and publish statements containing a number of data points and contextualisation for about 800 higher education providers efficiently and en masse.

Both web apps had outdated underlying components that needed upgrading due to potential security and stability risks.

The Annual Statements web app also required a design refresh and additional functionality which would have allowed web app users to compare provider statistics across multiple years and identify trends and changing higher education landscape.

The Solution

Web App Upgrade

Firstly, we carried out a code review to analyse how web apps would be affected by the upgrade and created an upgrade and testing plan.

Secondly, we upgraded the apps and redeveloped parts of the code which were affected by breaking changes introduced in the new underlying component versions. Moreover, we implemented additional security measures according to the latest industry standards and best practice.

Thirdly, we ran end-to-end quality assurance tests to ensure all application features were performing as expected.

Finally, the upgraded applications were successfully released to the users within the planned schedule.

Annual Statements Refresh

The Annual Statements frontend was redeveloped and gained a fresh new look to join OIA's new design direction.

We also worked with OIA to analyse how we could best present new data visualisation options and ability to compare data across years to their end users. Following the analysis, we produced several prototypes and came up with the final design quickly thereafter.

Finally, the web app was redeveloped to implement the new data visualisations options and rolled out for the higher education sector to use and benefit from.

The Outcome

The project was delivered on time, within budget and with no interruption to the end users.

The upgraded apps mitigated potential security and stability risks as well as brought in a fresh new design and functionality. The latter helps further OIA's mission for better information sharing across the higher education sector. In turn, that helps to improve overall standards in complaints and appeals handling at universities and colleges and ultimately benefits all students in higher education.

Blitz Effect took the OIA’s existing Annual Statements platform and programmed, tested and rolled out a multi-year ‘comparator’ feature. This allowed users to select and compare previous years’ data with charts and text seamlessly updating. This also works across multiple devices and browsers. Overall I experienced great attention to detail, highest level of customer service and solution based results.

Charlotte Corrish Head of Public Policy @ The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education