Central data – why it’s important

One of our 10 design principles is ‘data-driven’, which means that we use data to establish user needs, but it can also mean that wherever possible we want to use data held in central databases to populate our web pages with content. At the moment, we only have a few examples on the University website where we are using central data. For example, some School websites are using data from Human Resources and Pure (our research information management system) to automatically create staff listing pages.

However, where we are not using central data there is a huge overhead in manually maintaining content that could be pulled from existing central sources. Furthermore, there is a risk of content on the website that is not consistent with centrally held information. This presents a big risk from a consumer protection legislation point of view.

We are currently working on a ‘digital prospectus’ that will provide information for prospective students in one location. All the core information about postgraduate taught courses has now been moved from School websites into Study at St Andrews. While this means the information is now managed in one location it is still not using data that currently exists in our student information system (SITS) like tuition fees, entry requirements and application deadlines.

Our goal for the next few months is to work out the mechanics of how we are going to use SITS and our content management system, T4, to manage the postgraduate taught course information within Study at St Andrews. Once this has been completed we can move onto using SITS to provide all the undergraduate course information we need for the digital prospectus.

Beyond that we will continue to ensure we will use central data as our ‘golden copy’ for as much website content as possible. This will enable us to ensure the website is kept up-to-date and allow the reuse of data for other applications.

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