The University of Bristol is ranked 9th in the UK and 11th in Europe according to the QS World University rankings. They offer students a high-quality, research-led education, and have enhanced their global reputation by recruiting some of the best academics. Hence, they attract students from all over the world, creating a rich and exciting international community. Much of the university campus is spread across the beautiful historic city and surrounded by many wonderful heritage sites and has a reputation for creativity and sustainability.
With increasing complexity in the University’s curriculum structure in terms of student choice, and at the time, projected yearly increase of student numbers – approximately 2,000 new students over the previous three years and growing – it was clear to the University timetabling team and wider estates team that it was becoming increasingly difficult to produce a clash-free, fully roomed timetable. In addition, frequent changes to the space profile and availability of space for curriculum activities only added to this difficulty.
The University’s Education Data and Insight Team initiated a project with the following aims:
The University require a tool that could be used to give some broad answers to questions such as “What impact would removal of a building from the space profile have on the timetable?” and “What impact on available space would there be from a projected student increase over a number of years?”, whilst also maintaining the level of timetable quality for students and staff.
At the time, EventMAP had been exploring the idea of developing further tools for performing high-level scenario planning without the need for a very involved timetabling and modelling process. Hence the University engaged with EventMAP to develop a planning tool that would assist in the modelling of key questions.
We built a rich and flexible reporting system for data calibration, quality assessment and impact analysis. The modeller itself was optimised and refined to handle the scheduling required for up to 30,000 multi-week teaching activities, 400+ rooms, 5,000 teaching staff and 25,000 students, with fast production of each scenario-based schedule – allowing for practical and speedy experimentation. The framework user interface for creating (high-level or low-level) rules/preferences and defining varied ‘what if’ scenarios was carefully designed to provide a modular, scalable system on which to build in provision for all possible future modelling questions.
The first version of Planner was made available to the University of Bristol in November 2018, and since then further development has been completed which has enabled the University to perform further high-level scenario exercises to evaluate space requirements for the coming Temple Quarter zone in 2021.
The implementation of EventMAP’s new Planner tool at Bristol has provided the following benefits:
Confirmation of the timetabling team’s suspicions that space is indeed being utilised at higher levels than the sector benchmarks.
An increased confidence that the rising student numbers over the next five years could be accommodated through restructuring of curriculum delivery and space.
The ability to explore rezoning of curriculum activities and impact to student and staff travel across multiple sites.
Increased efficiency by ensuring the best resources were used to meet the curriculum needs.
EventMAP staff have helped us model a complex curriculum delivery through running scenarios on how optimisation could be used to help make better usage of the underlying estate. Based on the associated financial model this offers the University efficiency savings and the opportunity to transform both the existing timetable and the size and shape of the estate.