The State of Technology at Universities in the UK

The educational sector is in a time of radical change, with universities across the UK embarking upon programmes worth millions of pounds to improve student experiences and support their ambitions of becoming one of the country’s leading universities

From student learning through chatbots to virtual learning environments, artificial intelligence, machine-learning, cloud computing and the Internet of Things – there is no doubt these developments are enhancing the student experience.

But there are challenges that the sector faces which it needs to adapt to and conquer, such as the growing spotlight on network security. Preventing ever-growing, sophisticated hacking techniques is non-negotiable with the bed of data universities sit on, and high-profile breaches show no sign of slowing down in the press.

The skills gap in the UK is also one of growing importance. As innovations accelerate, job roles evolve and the demand for advanced technology skills rise, universities must respond quickly and take a whole-campus approach to education that looks at the larger picture. 

Expectations of wifi and consumer technologies are also higher than they have ever been. In a world fuelled by digital, this is hardly surprising. There is increased complexity in the market, especially as universities compete with online learning institutions, as the need for mobility is on the rise, and more people need VoIP and video conferencing to work seamlessly.

But what impact does technology have on student satisfaction rates? What do students expect from universities in 2020? And how can UK universities avoid falling victim to repeated hack attacks, now that 200 institutions have reported 1,000 attempts to have their data stolen?

In September 2019, more than half of young people went to university for the first time ever. 50.2% of 17 to 30-year-olds enrolled on undergraduate degrees at British institutions, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

There is a bigger demand for further education than ever before, with better digital offerings and facilities now a major selling factor to students. Well implemented digital transformation can help to significantly strengthen the growth of an institution.

A recent study found that the third highest factor for students selecting a university was its ‘perceived ability to boost later career opportunities.’ Universities must provide the courses and development opportunities for emerging careers in industries like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

IT and science facilities came fifth in the study for most important subjects to potential students.

Couple this with the fact that technology is enhancing at an incredible rate, with systems and processes becoming increasingly digitised, and it’s not good enough to rely on legacy systems anymore.

Student accommodation is also undergoing a huge transformation.

According to UCAS research, the most important thing students rate about student accommodation is value for money (97%). 

But that doesn’t mean accommodation has to be cheap. In contrast, that same survey found that students found high-quality accommodation to be preferable, and they would be prepared to pay extra for certain amenities such as 24-hour security, and a gym.

Ultimately, students have expectations for high-quality accommodation that is safe, and gives them the freedom to socialise.

With the average student living 20 minutes away from campus, the proximity to university is perhaps not as important as some might think. Instead, there is a shift towards distance to other amenities, including bars, clubs, shops, and gyms.

In fact, it’s the small touches that students of today have come to expect. Right at the top of this list is fast wifi. Students aren’t going to the library to do their work anymore – they’re doing it in the comfort of their rooms. Plus, with the trend shifting away from broadcast TV, towards streaming services like Netflix, a super-fast internet connection is vital. If accommodation doesn’t offer that, then residents may leave.

Digital experience insights survey

Another survey from students at 50 institutions and 29,531 students, found that only 42% of those in higher education feel their courses prepare them for the digital workplace, and around six in ten agreed that, when digital approaches are used, they enjoy learning more and understand things better.

82% of students use digital tools to access lecture notes or recorded lectures on a weekly basis, showing the importance for strong technology on and off campus. Having multiple devices is also becoming more common, with 30% having four or more.

Highlighting recent security attacks, just 54% said that their university protects their data privacy, and 43% say their university helps them to stay safe online. A student experience could be made or broken depending on privacy levels, so this is a clear factor which universities could improve upon.

Only 37% agree that they have regular opportunities to update their digital skills – which could prove a problem when combating the digital skills gap, and making sure people are equipped for working life.

It’s clear to see that British universities are on the path to embarking on digital transformation programmes to gain a competitive edge.

Students want to be involved in decisions about their digital environment, and for those that have begun rolling out digital initiatives, this is a chance to gain invaluable feedback and input.


This article has been taken from a whitepaper titled ‘The State of Technology at Universities in the UK’, which has been produced by wifi specialists Performance Networks.

Performance Networks are a highly specialised wifi network and security company that provides solutions for the education sector. It works to solve the most demanding network challenges in an ever-changing and increasingly unstable world, delivering real peace of mind when it’s needed most.

Performance Networks offer specialist wifi consultancy, with customers including the University of Nottingham. Find out more here: www.performancenetworks.co.uk/wifi-site-surveys-and-consultancy

To read the full whitepaper, visit: www.performancenetworks.co.uk/blog/post/whitepaper-technology-at-universities