Inside Track | Banner: the basics

Catherine Lorigan, Business Sponsor for the Student Lifecycle Programme, explains why work behind the scenes on student records system Banner is crucial to improving both student and staff experience.

Catherin Lorigan stands in front of some foliage.

You may or may not cross paths with Banner in your everyday working life, and so you may not be aware of just how critical the student records system is to the University’s present and future. 

Banner is central to the operations of the University of Leeds. It is a system the University has been using successfully since 2001 for student administrative processes across a number of areas including: applications and admissions; assessment and graduation; curriculum management; fees and funding; and registration and student records.

All of our work educating students touches Banner, and this technology, in turn, enables our ability to function effectively. Ensuring that Banner continues to function effectively is essential.

Over time, our needs have changed and increased substantially, meaning our current version of Banner no longer meets those needs and is being heavily augmented by local bespoke databases across the institution. Currently, colleagues across the University undertake several hundred weekly tasks to transfer data from Banner into local systems in order to meet the needs of faculties, schools and other services. 

The Student Lifecycle Programme (SLP) has been focused on a major refresh of Banner to ensure it can support the University.

The University is examining how we use the system and how we might take advantage of the full range of its features, many of which were not available when we first implemented Banner. This will enable us to replace and decommission many of the local systems on which our student education processes depend, a number of which are in applications such as Microsoft Excel or Access databases and are neither supported nor sustainable.

This will generate several benefits for colleagues and students, including:

  • A single source of truth – reliable and consistent data, entered just once and maintained accurately;
  • A reduction in data entry tasks for colleagues, creating time for more valuable and student-facing activities; and
  • A smoother and more efficient experience for students.

Future Banner Work from the Student Lifecycle Programme and Information Technology

As a core University system, Banner needs continual maintenance and development to fulfil its many functions. Banner was updated in November, and another update will be released in Spring 2022.

Since SLP started in 2019 it has successfully completed a number of additional improvements to the system, including:

  • Moving from an unsupported version of Banner to an upgraded Banner platform through a project completed in February 2020. This delivered a new web-based interface that has increased accessibility and usability, as well as mitigating the risk of major disruption in the event of technical failures; and 
  • Implementing the Application Review Centre (ARC) module into Banner which allows review of PDF versions of UCAS applications. These are  retained within one system, which provides improved compliance with GDPR data protection regulations.

There is still much to do, however, and SLP is running a series of projects to stabilise and upgrade the Banner platform, to migrate it to a cloud-based system (called Azure), to introduce new integration tools, and to make it possible to implement new releases automatically. All of this will improve system stability, enable greater automation of testing, and allow Banner to ‘talk’ more effectively to the other systems we use to support student education.

In addition to all of this, there are several current and future SLP projects to which Banner is integral. These include:

  • The Marks project, which will implement a ‘one best way’ set of processes to support recording, managing and publishing of marks across schools and Student Education Service (SES) teams; 
  • The Study Paths project, which will tackle some of the customisation in our version of Banner and ensure that in the future we can take advantage of functionality that will streamline and enhance our processes; and
  • The Regulatory Reporting project, which will improve data quality and governance and deliver a more efficient process for producing data for institutional reporting, including meeting our obligations to provide data more frequently through the new reporting system being introduced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) early in 2023 (known as HESA Data Futures).

As the programme continues SLP will engage actively with academic and SES colleagues to help design future processes which depend on Banner, and to make the system work better for all of us.

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