U21 Champions in the time of COVID-19; Analytics Team University of Queensland

Data Analytics on laptop

The COVID-19 Data Analytics team, led by Dr Clare Hourigan, collaborated to provide timely and relevant data to inform UQ's strategic and operational response to the COVID-19 crisis. The informal structure of the team exemplifies respect, diversity and the 'One UQ' ethos. 

PBI initially supported Queensland Health with contact tracing, but with widespread border closures soon after, the team leveraged ITS staff expertise to develop an international student registration survey which, among other things, began the process of identifying our students 'caught' offshore. To gather more complete data ITS ADS cooperated to track student IP logs geographically. This allowed targeted communications as border closures worsened and provided an understanding of the technology and platforms used by offshore students as online learning became a reality. Comprehensive student location data became critical to projecting the financial impact on the University.

Analysts in PBI and Future Students developed a process using PRISMS and VEVO data to locate students geographically. However, this required a manual lookup for every student. In response, the ITS BPDA staff created a data-robot to access Visa information direct from Home Affairs IT systems. This provided UQ with accurate, efficient and timely data, using automation which was unique across the sector. Throughout the process, PBI incorporated information into the data warehouse to enable a richer understanding of the students who were impacted, including country of residence, program, faculty, and stage of study. All team members showed knowledge leadership, collaborative and innovative work practices, exceptional dedication and agility in responding to a volatile environment. The insights provided by the COVID-19 Data Analytics team enabled the Senior Executive to make evidence-based operational and strategic decisions at critical points throughout the crisis. Specific outcomes included:

  • appropriate and timely supports for students,
  • targeted pedagogical intervention by academic staff, and
  • a financial management strategy which has been both prudent and measured.

The incorporation of this work into the data-warehouse allowed academic staff to focus on transitioning courses with maximum offshore student enrolments and enabled very nuanced modelling of impacts on placements and graduations.

The team leveraged the university's extensive data capabilities, imagined, developed and implemented new processes, and innovated to access data not previously available in a streamlined and efficient manner. This clearly exemplified the pursuit of excellence.

The group worked in a dynamic and goal driven manner and ensured that their output was targeted to a Senior Executive staff under incredible pressure to make rapid, high impact decisions in a highly volatile environment. The data and modelling enabled by the work of this team continues to guide decision making and scenario planning for 2021, allowing the University to project outcomes, consider options, and develop responses in a more informed and strategic frame than would otherwise be possible.


  • Mr Sagar Bhindi
  • Mr Hayden Gill
  • Mr Manish Gupta
  • Mr Shashank Gururaj
  • Dr Clare Hourigan
  • Mr Lachlan Kuhn
  • Mr Berg Lloyd-Haig
  • Mr Juan Londono
  • Ms Sylvania Wong
  • Ms Belinda Woodhead