Posted in Education Automation

BPM in Higher Education: A Complete Guide

Higher education institutes have an immense workload when it comes to ensuring that students – and staff – have access to all the resources they need for an outstanding education. 

Yet, despite incredible advances in technology in recent years, much of academia still resort to manual workflows to get much of this administrative work done. This leads to piles of paperwork and disjointed processes in which it’s easy for errors to occur and documents to go missing or students to slip between the cracks – which can have dire consequences in the case of processes such as financial aid applications. Not only that, but talented staff end up wasting countless hours on menial tasks like data entry and emails, which is bad news for job satisfaction. 

The solution: business process management. What exactly is BPM? In a nutshell, business process management refers to the practice of digitizing, proactively monitoring, and optimizing the sequence of tasks that need to be performed to achieve a particular business goal. Luckily for businesses – and higher education institutions – everywhere, business process automation software can make this much easier.

admin spending vs instructional spending

Key Business Processes in Higher Education

In many ways, higher education institutions such as colleges and universities are just like large corporations, and all the core business processes that are found in large enterprises are likewise at play in institutes of higher learning. 

However, in addition to the everyday business processes that are the lifeblood of every business – such as purchase orders, staff onboarding, and time-off requests – higher education business processes also include processes such as student admissions and registration, processing financial aid applications, curriculum approvals, scheduling and dozens of other administrative procedures relating to academia. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the many processes at play in most institutions of higher education:

General Administrative Workflows 

  • Admissions, 
  • Student registration, 
  • Coordinating various faculties and departments and allocating venues, 
  • Processing students’ course selection,
  • Registering special needs students,
  • Ensuring that there are no serious schedule clashes, 
  • Managing attendance records and sick notes, exam deferments, etc. 
  • Coordinating graduation, honor roll, academic and sports prize givings,
  • Organizing maintenance & janitorial services, etc.


  • Library and laboratory allocation and administration, 
  • Acquisitions, 
  • Research proposal approvals, 
  • Research assistance, 
  • Accessibility/student support infrastructure (headsets, Braille-compatible devices and printers, etc.)
  • Scheduling appointments, seminars, guest lectures, etc.
  • Online learning management systems (LMS) administration, 
  • Managing examinations, invigilation, grading, etc.
  • Cultural and sports/athletics events

Information Technology

  • Computer lab administration, 
  • Hardware and software requisitions,
  • Support/helpdesk tickets,
  • LMS support, 
  • Managing printing and copying facilities and student accounts (loading credits, etc.)
  • Setting up campus email, on-campus wifi,
  • Allocating and managing loan devices, 
  • Software updates, etc.

Information Management

  • Information capture,
  • Recordkeeping and filing, 
  • Database updates (e.g. student academic records),
  • Information backups,
  • Data security considerations, etc.

Human Resource Management 

  • Recruitment,
  • Onboarding,
  • Staff training and development, 
  • Vacation requests, 
  • Travel requests, 
  • Complaint resolutions, 
  • Staff evaluations, etc.


  • Grants, 
  • Bursaries, 
  • Purchase orders/procurement, 
  • Invoices/accounts payable, 
  • Payroll, 
  • Student financial aid applications, 
  • Budgeting (departmental and institution-wide),
  • Bookkeeping

Student Support

  • Counseling, 
  • Career services scheduling, 
  • Support for international/transfer students, 
  • Support for disabled students, 
  • Student housing administration, etc.

Health and Safety

  • Campus health services registration, scheduling, recordkeeping,
  • Staff and student safety administration,
  • Incident reporting, 
  • Disciplinary procedures, etc.

Public Relations

  • Alumni community management, 
  • Marketing/promotion, 
  • Public events, guest speakers, etc. 
  • Fundraising endeavors, etc.

This is far from an exhaustive list of the moving parts at play in the average higher education institution. Each of the items on these bulleted lists constitutes a workflow and probably a data-collection form – or several – and the odds are, most of them are still performed manually. With business process automation, large segments and entire workflows can be automated, saving thousands of hours formerly spent on repetitive administrative tasks. 

Why Higher Education Business Processes Need Automation

Automation can help to streamline labor-intensive administrative processes, reducing the administrative burden faced by higher education institutions. This directly translates into more efficient operations, which in turn translates into saved time and money, more engaged staff, and happier, better-equipped students.

Here are a few examples of the benefits of BPM in higher education:

  • Business process management allows you to onboard students much more quickly, allowing them to focus on settling in and setting themselves up for academic success instead of spending hours on tedious administrative processes. 
  • Improving administrative processes results in shorter wait times and greater access to up-to-date information, enhancing the student experience as a whole and empowering students with the resources they need to make a success of their studies. This is especially relevant with regards to speeding up financial aid application processing. 
  • Automating your higher education processes allows faculty to focus on education and research instead of administrative tasks, improving their job satisfaction while improving the quality of students’ learning experience. 
  • Automating menial administrative tasks like data collection and processing saves time and money by allowing you to reduce the number of administrative personnel needed. Additionally, going paperless enables you to save a significant amount of paper and ink – not to mention all the storage space taken up by paper records
  • Using the data generated by your newly digitized processes equips you to measure your workflows, identify pain points and bottlenecks, and make further efficiency improvements
  • Automating your higher education accounting processes such as invoice approvals and expense report approval workflows can save a lot of money and prevent errors and fraud.
Why Higher Education Business Processes Need Automation

Higher Education BPM Examples

As you can see, business process automation can make a huge difference in tackling the mountain of administrative tasks involved in the day-to-day running of an institution of higher learning. 

Let’s look at a few examples of how higher education institutions have used business process management to streamline their operations.

Community College Digitizes More than 140 Forms with BPM

Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) used frevvo to digitize more than 140 forms and automate workflows across every department. One of MCCC’s key aims was to avoid ever asking for information that they already had, which they did by connecting the forms and workflows to the college’s student information system and academic records by API. As a result, forms like the Excused Withdrawal form and Change-of-major form are automatically populated with the student’s enrollment information and dynamically routed to the correct parties for approval. 

BPM Improves Student Experience Through More Accessible Support

Syracuse University’s Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs (FYTP) helps new students to locate and access services including disability services, accommodations, healthcare enrollment, and tutoring. In the past, this required students to download, print and fill out forms and then hand-deliver or fax them to the FYTP administration office, where staff had to manually enter data from forms that were often illegible or had missing or incorrect information. 

Since implementing frevvo forms, students can complete the whole process online, easing their mental burden at a time when they’re already overwhelmed. The form designer is easy to use, so staff don’t need to rely on expensive IT staff to create the forms they need – they can set them up themselves within minutes with a few clicks. The forms ensure that the data is validated and that required fields are completed before they can be submitted, eliminating errors. What’s more, administrative staff can easily download the form data as Excel, significantly reducing the manual processing involved.

College Automates Purchase Orders with Business Process Automation

Central Wyoming College used frevvo to automate its purchase order process, using cost center codes to determine where each PO form gets routed automatically. Additionally, purchase orders that exceed a predetermined amount automatically get routed to the VP for approval, in keeping with the university’s purchasing policies. Now, instead of staff spending hours chasing down approvals, approvers get automated reminder notifications, which helps to dramatically reduce bottlenecks and ensure that purchase orders are processed on time. Thanks to frevvo’s business process automation, CWC staff can focus on students instead of time-wasting manual administrative tasks. 

Assessing the Workflow Needs of Colleges and Universities

With the high numbers of “customers”, staff, departments, and various moving parts that universities and colleges deal with, business process management is an absolute necessity in higher education. Of course, each higher education institution will have its own unique workflow needs and priorities and may need to perform an audit to determine which business processes should be automated first.

1. Review Current Workflows

Take inventory of your business processes as they are now. What are all the different day-to-day processes involving repeatable steps, within each faculty or department as well as the institution as a whole? 

2. Identify Inefficiencies

Monitor your business processes and flag any inefficiencies and redundancies, such as manual paperwork, approval bottlenecks, reliance on fax or email, dependence on handwritten signatures, manual data entry, etc. These are the steps you’ll want to automate to streamline your processes.

3. Create an Automation Roadmap

Now consider what these processes would look like if automation were applied to remove those inefficiencies and determine which workflows make the most business sense to automate first. 

Which workflows are currently the most resource-intensive? Which ones affect the most people? Which ones lead to the most frustration and errors? Which ones would immediately improve the student experience?

Implementing Workflow Automation with frevvo

With frevvo’s 100% visual, zero-code form designers and wizards, you can implement business process management in your college or university in mere days. It takes just a few minutes to set up your account and you can replace a paper-based process with your first fully-digital workflow on day one. 

It’s as easy as one, two, three:

1. Create a Form

Using frevvo’s drag-and-drop form designer, you can get started with one of more than 30 templates and customize it to meet your needs, or you can start from scratch and use the visual designer to add the fields you require. Frevvo’s forms are fully ADA- and WCAG-compliant right out of the box.

Implementing Workflow Automation with frevvo

2. Configure Rules

Use the wizard to create validation rules in accordance with your policies. You can also easily add electronic signature capabilities that allow users to sign forms using any device. 

Configure Rules

3. Design Your Workflow

Next, create your workflow using the 100% visual workflow designer and configure your conditional routing rules to determine where the form is sent and under which conditions. 

Design Your Workflow

Sit Back, Watch Your Automation at Work, and Optimize

As people use your workflows, they’ll generate digital data. You can analyze this data using our built-in reports to find bottlenecks and iteratively improve your automated processes.

It’s that simple. Once you see how easy it becomes to manage your business processes when you use frevvo, you’ll probably want to automate all your workflows. 

Ready to try frevvo for your higher education business process management needs? Why not sign up for a 30-day free trial with absolutely no obligations? It takes less than a minute to set up your account.


Ashish Deshpande has worked in the process automation space for over 20 years. He has been instrumental in successfully deploying frevvo’s software at hundreds of organizations such as HBO, New York University, and Boston Public Schools. Ashish has contributed to leading publications such as Forbes, and Ashish received a PhD in Computer Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India.