Meeting students’ expectations, effectively managing costs and real-estate, and maintaining cyber-security. These are among the top priorities for universities across the UK.
Many institutions around the world are using Citrix to help address these challenges.
Here, we’ve taken a look at three top UK universities:
- University College London (UCL) is ranked 16th in the world and counts 29 Nobel prize winners amongst its alumni, including including Peter Higgs (the Higgs boson) and Francis Crick (the structure of DNA).
- Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen (RGU) traces its roots back 250 years and was recently ranked as 1st in Scotland for graduate prospects and 5th in UK for boosting graduate salaries
- University of Northampton (UoN) is one of the UK’s newer universities and is winning prizes for its work on social impact. It was the first in the UK to be named a Changemaker Campus.
Meeting the expectations of the modern student
As UCL’s Head of Windows Infrastructure Anthony Peacock puts it, “Domestic students now feel they are paying for something and they expect a better service. Where before they were possibly less demanding, they are now saying, ‘What am I paying for?’”
International students also have high expectations, especially of one of the world’s top 20 universities. And, of course, students are increasingly tech-savvy.
“Nowadays, every student has a laptop when they arrive,” Peacock says.
Rob Palfreman, Head of IT Services at UoN:
“Education is now a commercial marketplace. Students are paying money for services and expecting to get outcomes. They expect to have state of the art services and ways of interacting with us that traditionally we haven’t catered for. Digital interactions and pervasive connectivity are expected to be the default.”
In fact, today’s students expect to access the resources they require — whether that’s apps or data — whenever and wherever they need, regardless of device.
By switching to a virtual desktop, many universities now deliver a student’s desktop securely to any device, anywhere. Access is no longer constrained by the availability of hardware and students can reach the resources they need whether on campus, in halls of residence or in the local Costa. As Palfreman says, “With Citrix, students feel the whole town is their campus.”
Technology and real-estate agility
But, sometimes, student expectations are not easily met within the standard university approach.
“Traditionally, you would select a room, fill it with 30 high-end workstations and install the software required for a specific course,” says Palfreman. “You end up hard-wiring a course to a room, and, that restricts course numbers to the room’s capacity. For periods of the year, the rooms are empty and the resources are under-utilized. But at peak times the machines are over-subscribed. It’s hugely inefficient and you also have the large overhead of managing software installations on thousands of machines all over the university.”
RGU had the same experience, as its Head of IT Operations and Support, Richard Lynch describes:
“We actually had rooms named after the software that was available within them! Restricting software to specific PCs was tying up real estate, limiting the usefulness of PCs, restricting students’ access to learning resources and driving all sorts of decisions.”
UCL faced similar challenges, compounded by its historic, Central London location.
“UCL is constrained by its physical space. There’s no room to put up a new building, and a lot of our existing buildings are listed [as Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest]. You can’t just knock one down and build a better one,” Peacock explains.
By centralising apps and processing power in the data centre, universities can deliver a consistent experience to students, whatever device they choose and whatever resource-hungry app they require. RGU’s Richard Lynch explains:
“The Citrix solution allowed us to present a familiar [Windows] desktop look and feel so we wouldn’t ‘scare’ anyone. Many of the students using thin-client terminals in classrooms or the library will not even know that they are using the Citrix platform.”
Palfreman agrees, “Citrix gives us a secure application delivery method, even for high-end applications like CAD etc., so that an individual can use their own device – whether that’s a Chromebook, laptop or even an iPad – to run high-end software, wherever they are. Citrix is fundamental to supporting the student experience and our Active Blended Learning model.”
And, as UCL shows, those apps can be delivered beyond the confines of the traditional campus.
“We now use a number of non-university buildings for teaching. Citrix XenDesktop lets us provide those locations with the same applications and facilities that are available on campus,” Peacock explains. “Our aim is to provide a near-identical experience whether people use an on-campus PC or the Citrix virtual desktop on a device somewhere off-campus.”
Security – protecting students and systems
“With Citrix we have a model that caters for choice without degrading service. We take down all of the barriers by giving ubiquitous access with end-to-end encryption,” Palfreman explains.
Citrix encrypts data in transit and secues it even on personal devices. University data and apps are containerised on personal devices so there is no risk of data leakage, even if a student’s device is stolen.
“We have control now, where we simply didn’t before,” says RGU’s Lynch. Because XenApp virtualised applications are managed and delivered from the data centre, administrative tasks such as installation, patching and upgrades only need to be done once, and then are instantly available to all users.
Citrix and education
Citrix solutions for technology in education enable institutions to create a secure mobile-ready campus that provides flexible education IT for institutions and a seamless experience for students, faculty and staff.
To learn more, visit our Education Solutions page, read other customer stories from the Education sector.