University data to inform decision makers
The National University of Samoa (N.U.S) is continuing to use data to inform decision making, with the recent release of its second statistical digest and the promise of another one in December.
N.U.S. launched the 2016 Statistical Digest on campus and told the media that it intends to catch up and publish the 2017 statistics by the end of the year.
Vice Chancellor and president, Professor Le’apai Asofou So’o launched the report with his colleagues Mandria Sua and Minerva Ta’avao who did much of the data gathering and presentation.
He said one of the biggest changes in this report from 2015 was the decision to establish a ‘census date’, or a snapshot date from which to take population counts across students and staff.
“This will add to the integrity of our data for researchers,” he said.
Previously N.U.S. would provide up to date data for researchers when asked for it, meaning different research would work with different population statistics even within the same enrolment year.
Also new in the 2016 data is a projection for enrolments going up to 2020, using an Excel formula.
It suggests that by 2020, N.U.S. could expect up to 4625 students, up 1103 from 2016, though the report only has enrolment data from 2013 to use for the forecast formula.
Extreme events also affect enrolments, such as in 2010 where the 2009 tsumani led to a dramatic decrease in enrolments.
Data for the digest comes from the N.U.S. student enrolment database Artena, N.U.S. human resources, and Ministries of Education, Sports and Culture, and Finance data.
The wide variety of data sources can mean collating information into one comprehensive dataset can be a challenge.
“The major job we have is cleaning the data, and making sure all the data we received is accurate and balances with the other data,” said Minerva Ta’avao, who worked on the digest.
“If there are little errors we have to reconfirm with the sources,” she said.
Ms Ta’avao said poorly inputted data was a regular issue they faced.
“The most common error is having inaccurate inputting, like students’ names or doubled up ID numbers,” she said.
“No system is perfect so there are little hiccups, but I can reconfirm with student admin or student finance and sort it out, and get the correct information.”
She said going forward the data collected for the 2018 digest will be in much better condition than previous years thanks to the learnings of the 2015-16 digests.
“To make the data as true and real as possible we need a way to control and monitor the data."
“It’s really the role of a data administrator, but now that [the sector] has seen there is someone focusing on the data that is needed, I think they are taking it seriously,” she added.