Awarded to Methods Business and Digital Technology Limited

Start date: Monday 23 July 2018
Value: £91,570
Company size: SME
Office for Students

Discovery for a resource to support prospective higher education students with decision making

6 Incomplete applications

5 SME, 1 large

27 Completed applications

19 SME, 8 large

Important dates

Tuesday 19 June 2018
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 26 June 2018 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 3 July 2018 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
The Office for Students requires an experienced, collaborative supplier to: a) complete discovery for a new resource to support prospective higher education students with their decision making, and b) provide support with preparation of a business case to develop a new resource (depending on the outcome of the discovery).
Latest start date
Monday 9 July 2018
Expected contract length
8 weeks
South West England
Organisation the work is for
Office for Students
Budget range
£80,000 to £100,000

About the work

Why the work is being done
Research carried out in 2015 by the UK HE funding bodies showed that prospective students needed greater support to make well-informed course choices which would result in positive outcomes. This was particularly the case for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Office for Students is taking forward a discovery to investigate further the need for a new resource to help prospective students make decisions, which would replace the Unistats website. This would be part of our strategy to meet our regulatory objective to ensure that all students, whatever their background, are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education.
Problem to be solved
By September 2018, the OfS need to decide whether we develop a replacement for the Unistats website. A replacement would need to be developed by September 2019. Our research shows that simply providing data is not the best way to support student decision-making and that a different approach is needed. We are interested in exploring the best way of meeting student information needs and what role the Office for Students should have in this. Any new resource would need to be informed by research into decision-making behaviour.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Prospective higher education students and those who advise them.

As a prospective student, I need to:
• understand more about HE to help me make an informed decision
• understand how much it will cost to undertake an HE course and what support is available
• find the information which is important to me
• find courses which meet my needs e.g. are close to home/in the right subject area/ which have a placement.

As a teacher or adviser/parent I want to find and understand information about different courses to help me advise my students/children when choosing an HE course.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
Research on information needs was carried out with large numbers of prospective and current students (600 and 1100 respectively) in 2015 as part of the Unistats review. This research is available on the Higher Education Funding Council for England website at Work was paused due to the establishment of the OfS.
We have mapped other information sources and commissioned an update to a previous study on decision-making behaviour, both of which can be shared with the successful supplier. We are also carrying out work on possible approaches to marketing of a new website for inclusion in the business case.
Existing team
Service owner and Product owner
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Office for Students
Nicholson House
Lime Kiln Close
Stoke Gifford
BS34 8SR
Working arrangements
The supplier should be co-located at the OfS’ office in Bristol, although it is expected that travel and off-site working will be required to conduct user research.
There is no separate budget for travel costs or expenses so this should be included in the overall project costs.
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Have experience of delivering digital services using an agile team and meeting the Digital Service Standard
  • Have experience of carrying out user research and of user-centred design of digital services that meet identified user needs and business objectives
  • Have experience of designing services which present complex datasets to users with varying levels of knowledge of and interest in statistical information
  • Have experience of business case development
  • Have experience of working with in-house teams with limited Agile knowledge
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Show understanding of student data and HE information
  • Show evidence of carrying out user research with school age users and/or teachers
  • Show experience of working with ‘hard to reach’ users
  • Show experience of service redesign

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Evidence of understanding of the policy landscape and the problem to be solved (20 points)
  • Evidence of how the project will successfully identify user needs (25 points)
  • Evidence of how the project will be delivered within the required timescale. The proposal should include a project plan of activities and deliverables with appropriate risk identification and mitigations (20)
  • Identification of an appropriate team with relevant skills and experience (20 points)
  • Description of appropriate approach to business case development (15 points)
Cultural fit criteria
  • Evidence of working on digital projects with a strong policy component and ability to work with policy colleagues
  • A collaborative approach, demonstrating how the supplier will work with the internal team and approach wider stakeholder engagement
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
Written proposal
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Is this just to support decision-making for English/UK students or for international students as well?
It should be suitable for all those considering studying a UK HE course
2. The closing date for applications is 3 July and the latest start date is stated as 9 July. However this only gives 3 working days to shortlist to 3 applicants, get final proposals, choose successful applicant. What is likely to be the realistic starting date? when is the latest in September when the project needs to be completed?
We would like applicants to submit their proposals alongside their responses to the shortlisting questions. Applicants will be shortlisted and then only the proposals of those shortlisted will be assessed.
3. How big is the internal team that will be involved in this project, and what types of job roles are included?
As noted, there is product owner and service owner resource available to the project. There is no internal delivery team.
4. Is it one example to meet both criteria or can we give 2 examples, 1 for each of the question criteria? I.e. 1. delivering using an agile team and 2. meeting digital service standard
You can provide two examples if you wish
5. Could you provide examples or descriptions of what you mean by ‘student data’ and ‘HE information’
As showing understanding of student data and HE (higher education) information is a selection criterion, we don’t think it is appropriate to respond directly to this question. Some of the relevant information is mentioned elsewhere in the opportunity and it may be helpful to refer to the linked research.
6. What is the age range of ‘School age’?
Our primary audience is years 11 and 12, but experience of working with other years may also be relevant.
7. What do you mean by ‘hard to reach’ users? Location, willingness to participate in research, lack of knowledge of who they are etc.
We need to ensure that we are designing a resource that will be useful to all prospective students and our experience is that some groups are harder to engage than others. We would be interested in seeing evidence of successful engagement with users with particular characteristics when this has been necessary and where these groups do not readily participate in research.
8. Please can you provide details on how bidders submit the written proposal alongside the qualification questions? (For example, is this through the Digital Marketplace portal?)
Bidders can submit their written proposal either alongside their responses in the Digital Marketplace Portal, or by email to
9. The 2nd stage written proposal (after 100 word responses) is usually in response to a more detailed statement of work, which suppliers can respond to with an outline solution and pricing, do you have a detailed statement of work you can provide at this stage?
Having received a number of similar questions, we have reviewed our process timeframes. We will now be assessing the ‘essential’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills and experience questions to create our shortlist, at this stage. Once suppliers are shortlisted, we will contact them by email to then ask for a full proposal. Apologies for any confusion caused by responses to previous questions. The application deadline remains at Tuesday 3 July 2018 at 11:59pm GMT. The latest start date will be 23rd July 2018.