Axians University IT blog series
With A levels and exams done and dusted, many students are now turning their attention to the next phase of their lives – the university years. The summer giving students a chance to re-charge their batteries and ensure they have everything they need to start a new chapter. For many, it’s the first time they will have lived away from home or on their own. Having the essentials to survive and thrive are therefore vital.
But it’s not just food, drink and friends we are talking about here. For all students, technology will underpin their university lives and affect their ability to grow and succeed in the future. We understand that when it comes to keeping students happy, universities need to deliver on the technology front. But we also know that for many universities, realising their full potential for innovation can be an uphill struggle.
From staying in touch with family to socializing with new friends, lecture material to independent learning, streaming and social media – students thrive on technology. Whatever the complexities of keeping the network fit for purpose, universities have a duty of care to support students for life not just on, but beyond the campus – simply gaining a degree is no longer enough.
The network as a source of nourishment
Students expect more. An increase in fees is making them more demanding – and rightly so. They live and breathe technology, expect to be connected at all times, to self-serve and enhance their learning through digital resources and online platforms. With research suggesting that 18-24 year olds own an average of 4.1 devices – the most of any age group – it is no surprise that being digitally connected is their lifeblood.
This might sound dramatic, but for students the technology network is as vital as the blood pumping through their veins. It provides the life support they need. The university campus is not only a place for students to learn, live and socialise. Universities keep students hopes and dreams alive – and the quality of courses and teaching will only go part way to achieve this. Technology will do the rest.
The graduates of tomorrow have grown up with technology and therefore have an expectation that they will always be connected and have online access to enhance their lives. Social interaction has moved online and the way young people consume media has changed to become something they access immediately and stream on-demand.
If they turn up to university in September to find that the technology infrastructure is simply not there to support their way of life, then this will be a major issue and could impact day-to-day survival and future success.
Employers also expect students to have a certain level of technology savviness. If universities aren’t equipped to offer students and staff with the resources they need to teach and learn, this will impact the reputation and success of the university.
Keeping the vital signs bright
With every university fighting for its share of the student population, it will be the provision of technology which will set them apart now and in years to come. The pressure is already on to provide a robust and reliable network to support demands for strong WiFi access from the student population, and the use of connected devices within lectures to enhance learning. But the dependency on the network will only grow as teaching methods evolve to keep pace – and universities need to be ready for that, otherwise they will suffer in the long-term.
Universities need to think of themselves as mini broadband providers. They need to have a flexible enough network infrastructure to add new services and keep up with ever increasing student demand for bandwidth. They also need to keep up with their surroundings and appeal to tech savvy students who are drawn to innovative and fast paced cities. Smart cities are a real draw for students, with the likes of Manchester a shining example of where technology is transforming the local area and attracting a new type of resident.
As part of their role in equipping students for life beyond their walls, universities have a key role to play in fostering innovation and supporting the development of smart cities, with a joined-up approach to connected technology. Having a strong and robust network infrastructure and focus on technology provision, will therefore not only enable them to attract and retain the best students, but will enhance the university’s reputation within the wider industry and region.
London School of Economics
A good case in point is the London School of Economics, which puts technology innovation at the heart of its strategy to support its students and staff. The technology resources it provides have been instrumental in securing the highest calibre of students and equipping researchers with the tools they need to remain at the forefront of their field. Our team has worked closely with them to put in place innovative and secure data traffic between the campus and off-site data centres.
This care and attention afforded to connectivity, has seen LSE compete against top education institutions around the world to attract the most promising students and researchers. Through innovative and scalable connectivity solutions, it can now securely manage growing data volumes, at high speed, supporting the current application delivery architecture.
Long after the euphoria of Freshers’ Week has died down, and students start forming new friendships and getting to grips with their new-found freedom, it’s the role of technology and innovation which will really play a big part in whether they succeed and survive the university years. The growth in connected devices, online resources and data traffic is irreversible and universities need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to support it and provide real value, to keep vital signs good for not just the next cohort of students but for many more to come.