The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol) has around 30,000 students and 3,500 employees. Like all universities in England, UWE Bristol faced decreased government funding due to the economic climate. Though it was confronted with the challenge of reducing costs by 25 percent, the university saw an opportunity to enhance its business processes and increase academic opportunities for student by improving its use of technology. UWE Bristol partnered with HP, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to understand how it could take advantage of its existing Microsoft solutions to achieve its goals. After upgrading its Microsoft communications and collaboration platform and implementing new programs developed jointly with HP, the university found it could reduce costs, improve collaboration, and create new academic opportunities. Situation
The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol) is the eighth largest university in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 30,000 students and 3,500 staff, which makes it the largest provider of higher education in the southwest of England. Students come to UWE Bristol from all parts of the United Kingdom, and a significant and growing number of international students come from more than 140 countries worldwide.
||By relying on our Microsoft technologies and our partnership with HP to develop cost-saving solutions, we can continue to deliver quality education and improve relations with our students while cutting our costs by 25 percent.
Professor, Vice Chancellor, and CEO, UWE Bristol
As a multi-site university with four campuses in and around Bristol, UWE Bristol has 19 departments that cover a wide range of disciplines and expertise. The university is continually developing and is currently investing around GBP£200 million (U.S.$308 million) in new facilities and projects. As it continues to expand its educational programs and opportunities, UWE Bristol is reducing its cost base by about 25 percent due to reductions in government support. In addition, UWE Bristol is looking to improve its levels of service as U.K. students face large tuition hikes.
With the changing economic climate and the university’s commitment to educational excellence, UWE Bristol saw the perfect opportunity to change the way it delivers education to students. UWE Bristol engaged its long-term partner HP, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, to help redesign its communications and collaboration solutions—and to be a partner in innovative education solutions that could help give it another competitive advantage. HP began by conducting a Business Value Assessment to review the university’s processes and recommended areas where UWE Bristol could reduce costs and administration and improve efficiency.
“Our innovative strategic partnership with HP includes a number of academic focused initiatives to help expand opportunities for students, including the Enterprise Computing (Hewlett-Packard) Degree and an ICT Transformation Programme, aimed at enhancing the university’s IT infrastructure and IT-based communications processes,” says Alistair Sandford, Senior Project Manager at UWE Bristol. Some of the processes that HP and UWE Bristol decided to target as part of the ICT Transformation Programme were:
Enabling distance learning opportunities and improving overall communication between staff and students by using video conferencing, instant messaging, presence, and remote desktop sharing.
Streamlining the admission process. “Each academic department provides ‘joining’ instructions for prospective students that detail the activities students need to perform to enrol in classes and adjust to life on campus,” says Sandford. “The process was inconsistent and difficult to manage. We wanted to provide a single template to be completed by staff across the university, with a predefined workflow to simplify management and improve visibility of where each document is within the process.”
Creating a central repository for its student administration manual. This manual provides instructions and information for how to handle processes such as admissions and transfers and other interactions with students.
Establishing partnerships with other universities. “With international and emerging markets in education, we saw an opportunity to increase revenue streams by partnering with universities around the world,” says Sandford. “Instead of ad hoc communications with these other institutions, we wanted to establish ongoing relationships, but we needed robust procedures and thorough processes in place to help us accomplish this.”
HP helped UWE Bristol take advantage of the Microsoft technologies it already licensed to implement its recommendations. Several years ago, the university upgraded its communications solution, beginning by replacing an earlier Siemens-based private-branch exchange (PBX) system with an Alcatel IP-PBX solution in new campus buildings. In 2010, the university worked with HP to determine how it could integrate its telephony solution with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 (now called Microsoft Lync), which it had implemented for presence and instant messaging, to provide enterprise voice across the campus. UWE Bristol and HP also identified other Office Communications Server capabilities, such as video conferencing and desktop sharing, that could enhance students’ education and help create partnerships with other universities.
For collaboration, UWE Bristol had deployed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. While people liked the solution and used it to collaborate within their own departments, the university had no central landing page to link the various department sites, and it had no university-wide workflows to manage processes across departments. “SharePoint Server has become popular with the departments but rapidly evolved in an unstructured manner. Staff routinely retained and referred back to emails containing links to sites, as there was no easy way to navigate through the different sites,” explains Sandford. HP saw the opportunity for the university to create a more unified intranet that would support standardized processes across the organization.
The university also worked with HP to identify the areas where it wanted to improve educational opportunities for students. UWE Bristol had heard from partners such as HP that many graduates required additional training when they joined the workforce. The university wanted to add more vocational training to the academic experience to ensure that students could be productive from their first day on the job.Solution
With the support of HP, UWE Bristol took advantage of its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and upgraded its unified communications solution with the latest Microsoft technologies—which included Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft Lync Server 2010, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. HP helped UWE Bristol configure the solution to take advantage of the interoperability between Microsoft technologies to break down communication barriers, streamline processes and support collaboration, and provide additional academic opportunities for students.
Improved Communications Options
With the deployment of Lync Server 2010, HP helped the university provide a comprehensive unified communications solution that includes capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and ad hoc collaboration and conferencing, in addition to a university-wide voice over IP solution that will eventually replace its IP-PBX telephony solution. With Lync, the university faculty and staff can choose between Polycom CX600 IP desktop phones or Polycom CX300 handsets that are optimized to work with Lync Server, in addition to HP notebook computers that are also optimized for Lync, such as the HP EliteBook 8540p and the HP EliteBook 8740w.
||With Lync Server and SharePoint Server, UWE Bristol is delivering a university-wide communications platform for all faculty and staff, helping with the objective of creating a more cohesive organization.
Senior Project Manager, UWE Bristol
With Microsoft Lync 2010 on the desktop, UWE Bristol faculty and staff have a unified client interface to access capabilities like audio conferencing, video conferencing, and desktop sharing. “We recognize that students want increased contact time with their lecturers. Lync can help us achieve this, by allowing the lecturers to make themselves available outside of the classroom hours, via instant messaging and conferencing,” explains Sandford. Faculty can now open a whiteboard to take notes or collaborate with students in real time, or they can record and save online class content as .XPS or video files to share with students who missed class or who need to review content for exams. The university is also considering integrating Lync Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 with educational software such as Blackboard to enhance interactive learning.Improved Intranet for Collaboration
To encourage better collaboration across departments, the university is redesigning its intranet site and rebuilding more effective, cross-departmental team sites in SharePoint Server 2010. The site has a central landing page with clear navigation links. “With this new implementation, we wanted to take a top-down, more centralized approach to how we created and managed sites and use them to create spaces where people could collaborate effectively across the university,” says Sandford. The university is using SharePoint Server for project management and to support intra-departmental relationships. It is also using workflows in SharePoint 2010 to facilitate business process automation. With the interoperability between SharePoint Server and Lync Server, faculty and staff can take advantage of capabilities such as presence, skill search, instant messaging, and shared calendars to work together across departments.
UWE Bristol is using the intranet to consolidate and host all of its student administration materials, which it rewrote using Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Visio 2010, to create a more interactive experience. Instead of riffling through different documents, people can access the information from a single source. In addition, UWE Bristol created a new Word 2010 template for the “joining” instructions that each department can customize to meet its needs. When each department submits the instructions, they can follow a workflow process for review and approval in SharePoint Server.
For collaboration outside the university, UWE Bristol believes it can use SharePoint Server and Lync Server together to create partnerships and educational programs with universities around the world, especially in developing markets, such as India and North Africa. Through SharePoint Server, the university is creating workflows that explain how to engage education partners, and checklists to create and manage standards for joint programs. After it has established programs with other universities, UWE Bristol can use the conferencing and desktop sharing capabilities in Lync Server to deliver classes and maintain communication with partners to ensure that the programs are meeting established standards.
From an academic standpoint, UWE Bristol worked with HP to create a joint IT degree program. Students who complete the program not only receive an academic degree, but they also receive valuable certifications from HP and Microsoft that increase their hiring potential in technical IT positions and help them to make immediate contributions in the workplace. In addition, HP provides a placement year (a year-long internship) for students who enrol in the program so that they have real-world experience when they enter the job market.Benefits
Through its partnership with HP, UWE Bristol has built a Microsoft unified communications platform to help it remain competitive even in tough economic times. “UWE Bristol’s partnership with HP helped us to focus on how we can further leverage our Microsoft technologies to enable change within the organization,” says Sandford.
Reduce Costs by 25 Percent
UWE Bristol faced the challenge of reducing operating costs by 25 percent, so it needed a way to use technology efficiently and produce better results with fewer people. By taking advantage of its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and HP technologies to deploy these solutions in a virtualized environment, the university reduced its data centre and administrative costs. “By relying on our Microsoft technologies and our partnership with HP to develop cost-saving solutions, we can continue to deliver quality education and improve relations with our students while cutting our costs by 25 percent,” explains Steven West, Professor, Vice Chancellor, and CEO at UWE Bristol.
||Lync Server and SharePoint Server can help us to provide collaborative spaces for working with partners, so we can shrink the geographic divides.
Senior Project Manager, UWE Bristol
UWE Bristol is targeting a potential cost reduction of GBP£250,000 (U.S.$385,000) a year, by replacing the university’s aging PBX system with a Lync Server 2010 enterprise voice solution and by reducing travel costs through the use of the video and web conferencing capabilities in Lync Server.Increase Efficiency Through Collaboration
The Microsoft unified communications solution that UWE Bristol is adopting will help it maintain or even increase efficiencies through improved collaboration and communication. By using capabilities such as Skill Search and Rich Contact Cards, faculty can more easily locate colleagues in other departments to discuss cross-departmental educational programs, admissions processes, and other university business. “With Lync Server and SharePoint Server, UWE Bristol is delivering a university-wide communications platform for all faculty and staff, helping with the objective of creating a more cohesive organization,” says Sandford. “The rollout of these technologies means that staff within the university is better equipped to find content and skills, communicate, collaborate, and engage with business processes.”
With a centralized intranet, UWE Bristol has created a single point of access where faculty and staff can search for and access tools and forms they need to be productive on a daily basis. And by using SharePoint to manage the “joining” instructions and overall admissions process, the university can reduce the effort required to develop student instructions and ensure that students receive all the information they need before starting programs on campus.Open New Markets
By using SharePoint Server and Lync Server, UWE Bristol can improve engagements with potential educational partners around the world. “Part of our work with HP was finding a better way to manage engagements with international partners,” explains Sandford. “Lync Server and SharePoint Server can help us to provide collaborative spaces for working with partners, so we can shrink the geographic divides. By using SharePoint Server, we can provide a thorough process for developing and managing these partner relationships, and we can use audio and video conferencing in Lync to ensure more continuous communication.” The university currently maintains or is developing partnerships with over 50 institutions around the world. Relationships range from simple admission agreements to comprehensive strategic partnerships which include delivery of UWE Bristol programmes, dual degrees, joint research, and student and staff exchange. The aim is to develop long-lasting, sustainable, and mutually beneficial partnerships with international institutions who share UWE Bristol’s values.
Prepare Students for Employment
Even before it faced economic challenges, UWE Bristol was looking for a partner to help its students succeed in the job market. Working with HP, the university considered how it could deliver education in a different way to help students reduce the cost of education and get more value for their money. “The collaborative environment between lecturers and students is a key factor in where students decide to study these days,” explains Brian Fenix, Client Principal at HP. Through Lync Server, educators have easier access to ad hoc and online meetings, because they can easily connect and collaborate through the unified client interface to share a desktop or an application.
By using Lync Server, the faculty can increase the amount of time they have to interact with students, and they can provide remote tutorials and use conferencing to enhance what students are learning in the classroom. “Lync Server allows us to extend the reach of our learning environment,” explains Manuel Frutos-Perez, Leader of the E-learning Development Unit at UWE Bristol. “It provides flexibility for students and facilitates distributed learning. I can easily teach dispersed cohorts, and I can use Lync to schedule office hours at times that are more convenient for me and my students. Students can have real-time meetings with me and their peers without having to travel to the campus.” In addition, by taking online classes delivered through Lync, students can make progress toward earning their degrees even when they are away from campus.
With the HP degree program, UWE Bristol also provides students with a complete academic and vocational experience that will make them competitive on the job market—and keep the university competitive in education. “We consider ourselves a partnership university,” says Sandford. “Our students are in the top 12 in the country in terms of graduate employment and our relationship with HP and these embedded programs help us strengthen our position in an increasingly competitive market.”
Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative, and engaging; and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.
For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2010, go to: For More Information
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