The University of East Anglia
Case Study

One platform to achieve three objectives

The University of East Anglia was the first university in the UK to adopt Enlitened, becoming a development partner in February 2019. Following a successful initial pilot study, UEA made Enlitened available to all undergraduates from September 2019.

We spoke to Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, about UEA’s journey with Enlitened so far and their plans for the future.


Why did UEA need Enlitened?

“There were so many reasons!” exclaims Jon. “Although these can be summarised into three purposes since Enlitened is really three apps in one.”

1. To connect with students

The first reason UEA wanted Enlitened was to help the university connect with its students. As Jon explains: “It’s increasingly challenging to have a meaningful conversation with students these days. Universities are growing, so it’s becoming more and more difficult for students to feel that they’ve got an individualised relationship with their university.

Universities need to provide a way for every student to feel that they can talk directly to their institution. Enlitened enables us to do this through the ideas feature. I see it as sort of a mediator between the student and the university. The student feels able to give feedback as it’s anonymous. They’re also motivated as they know they will receive a response from the university.

I can’t imagine not looking at the students’ ideas in Enlitened now. It’s so useful as you get this immediate sense of what students are thinking about from day-to-day. We usually get between 50-90 ideas a day.”

“This is the closest thing you can do in 2019 to making the level of personal interaction between a student and the university look like it did 30 or 40 years ago when the purpose of universities was to build relationships with students, not just to deliver learning.”

Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, University of East Anglia

80% of pilot study users agreed that Enlitened helps underrepresented groups of students get their voices heard (across all three of our development partner institutions).

“Enlitened helps the university become a better place. For me, a ‘wonderful home’ means that everyone has their say in how they are and where they live. Enlitened, for me, helps to achieve this.”

Student at the University of East Anglia

2. To get real-time insights

Previously, UEA were relying solely on the National Student Survey (NSS) for student feedback. They felt that this wasn’t enough: “Students’ needs and perceptions change quicker now because everything in today’s world changes much more quickly. The only way you’re going to get relatively real-time information about how your students are doing and feeling is using instant technology.”

Jon explains why the speed of feedback has become a particular focus for UEA: “These days, universities have to be a lot more agile. Universities are more competitive and students have high expectations. So, if we want to differentiate our student experience compared to other institutions, we need up-to-date information about what students care about.”

“Initially, I thought this might be another thing being flogged as magic in a box. But after learning about the motivation for Enlitened, The Student Room Group’s understanding of the market, and the large team of experts behind it, it became clear that Enlitened was different. I shifted from being sceptical to saying: ‘We absolutely have to have this.’”

Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, University of East Anglia

3. To deliver ongoing, personalised support at scale

The final reason UEA felt they needed Enlitened was to help them deliver tailored support to students throughout their studies.

“Enlitened helps us deliver responsive support to our students. Based on their answers to the mini, student-facing survey of their needs and their preferences, they get content that relates to them; whether it’s an article or signposting to wider university support services. Not only this, but through the WHO-5 questions, the app also addresses the mental health of our students and has a protective function.

The number of questions answered that we were getting through Enlitened in the pilot study was astounding. That’s because it didn’t feel like a survey. It feels like you’re getting a really worthwhile interaction because the content you receive relates to what you’ve said.”

“It is more personalised and also anonymous – no one has to know that you use it, and this encourages those who are anxious to step forward to gain the help they need.”

Student at the University of East Anglia

UEA pilot study in numbers


questions answered by students
ideas submitted by students
student votes in support of those ideas

What is the WHO-5?

The WHO-5 (World Health Organisation – Five Well-Being Index) is a short self-reported measure of current mental wellbeing. It consists of five simple questions and is among the most widely used questionnaires for assessing subjective psychological wellbeing.

The Enlitened question set includes the WHO-5 as a third-party subjective wellbeing measurement tool, which can be used to make robust, evidence-based escalated wellbeing recommendations to students and universities. The WHO-5 questions in Enlitened are accompanied by signposting actions, content and score triggers that are customisable for each university.

The impact of Enlitened at UEA

Amplifying the student voice

It’s still early days for UEA but already, the university is seeing a big impact from Enlitened. In particular, when it comes to hearing students’ suggestions for improvement. Jon says: “There have been some really good ideas that were things we might not have thought of ourselves, like maps of the water fountains on campus.”

Enlitened is also helping UEA to prioritise student feedback and focus on the ideas that will have the most substantial positive impact on the student experience. For example, the most popular student idea to date has been for lectures to be recorded so that students can refer back to them. Due to the overwhelming support for this idea from over 600 students, it has been incorporated into UEA’s ‘Inclusive Education Policy’ and the recording of teaching events will be introduced as part of this.

“It allows students to have more of a voice and put across their opinions in a less intimidating environment.”

Student at the University of East Anglia

Providing meaningful insights in real-time

The ability to segment data in the Enlitened dashboard and look at the wellbeing scores and question responses of certain groups of students has also put a stop to the temptation for the university to act on assumption. Instead, conversations and decisions are evidence-based, informed by data from the Enlitened dashboard.

Since UEA are now much more aware of students’ thoughts and feelings, they can also react quicker for immediate impact: “We learned from Enlitened that first year and third year students have a very high awareness of student services generally. But second year students don’t. We used this information to publish communications targeted at second years with information about how they can access support.”

“I think the sign of a good product is when you’ve had it in place for a while and you think: ‘How the hell did we do this stuff before we had that?’”

Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, University of East Anglia

What’s next for UEA and Enlitened?

“I genuinely think that every university should be signed up to Enlitened.”

Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, University of East Anglia

Jon has big aspirations for improving the student experience at UEA and he sees Enlitened as a core part of how he will achieve his vision.

In the short term, Jon’s plan is to work with Enlitened to develop more UEA-specific content within the app, as part of the proactive support delivered to students’ phones. He’s also planning to experiment with using Enlitened as a platform for the university to connect and communicate with students more widely: “For example, if we’re planning to run a series of sessions on procrastination, it would be great to get this message to any students whose Enlitened question answers are telling us that they procrastinate a lot.”

“I think the app is transformative. That might sound hyperbolic, but I really think it is. That’s what I’m saying to other universities that ask me about it. The way it’s transformative is both in terms of the timing and the nature of the interaction. It used to be that the student maybe got a chance once a year (if the university did their own internal survey) to say how they felt. Whereas now, they’re telling us how they feel every single week. That is absolutely transformative.”

Dr Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, University of East Anglia

Interested in finding out what Enlitened can do for your university? Get in touch today.