I've got a part time job at the "language lounge" of a university. One of the services they offer is a language meet-up/exchange program, in which learners get matched up with other learners for conversational practise.
For example, Diego who is a native Spanish speaker wants to practise intermediate English, while Ronnie, who is English, needs to improve his intermediate Spanish. These two would get matched up.
At the moment, the system operates with various bits of paper/forms that we have to manually go through to make matches. I'd like to take it digital, so we could store all the people's details online, and be able to match them without wading through piles of forms. So I would key in Diego's details, and a list of possible matches would pop up. The criteria are: name, age, nationality, native language, desired language, interests.
Is there a relatively simple (and preferably free) database program I could use for this? Or is there a way of crafting some sort of Excel spreadsheet to do it?
Don't speak to your Computer Science dept, speak to your central computing services. Depending on the size of your Uni they may suggest Excel/Access (if they are small) or something even more suitable if they are large.
If you can avoid creating a bespoke database/spreadsheet and put it into a larger system, its always best to do this. This will give you ongoing support and ensure that when you as an individual move on, the system does not fall apart as no one else can manage to support it.
You need to think not just about the current DP but also about the new European laws coming in next year. This is another good reason for going to IT who will already be looking at compliance with these.