A Manchester start-up is using machine learning techniques to identify students at risk of dropping out of university.

George Sanderson and Jamie Rawsthorne had the idea for Unique Insights while studying entrepreneurship in Bristol.

They set up the company aged just 21, moving to  London to be part of business accelerator Mass Challenge.

Now based in Spinningfields in the Northern tech cluster, they are being mentored by Wakelet founder and CEO Jamil Khalil.

Their business – which analyses student data – will launch officially with the start of the new academic year in September.

George Sanderson, Unique Insights

Sanderson told a BusinessCloud Big Data conference at the International Festival for Business: “Each student that drops out costs institutions £27,000 in tuition fees alone.

“With their being over 120 universities in the UK, it is a whopping £750m problem.

“Unique Insights help universities to spot the students that are most vulnerable to dropping out, along with highlighting the most practical piece of support to work with for each student.

“We achieve this through applying cutting edge data analytics techniques to student data and outputting these results through an intuitive dashboard for support staff to work with.

“We take four to five years’ worth of historical student data from a university. Then we apply our algorithm to spot trends and patterns within data of those students who have dropped out.

“The algorithm is now tailored to a university’s specific data set and come August / September the analytics can be readily applied to the new cohort.”

It’s estimated that over 27,000 students drop out of university in the UK every year, which equates to a drop-out rate of seven per cent.

 Big Data is big news. We reported yesterday how analytics firm Hello Soda has cemented its international presence with the opening of a new US office .

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