Questions of identity

A number of trends are affecting the deployment and management of student ID cards in higher education

Educational institutions have changed their requirements and adopted new technologies as they aim to satisfy the growing demands of a very technology-savvy group of consumers: students. On the agenda of every campus office is leveraging the capabilities of a student card for everyday applications in order to provide convenience on and off campus, while keeping the campus safe in as cost-effective a manner as possible. Key trends are affecting the deployment and management of student ID cards in higher education, ranging from a single student ID card allowing access to multiple universities to using student ID cards as a digital signature to enhance security and protect learning assets.

First, one rising trend in the European Union is ‘learning mobility’, whereby students can undertake their studies in more than one university. This entails either going abroad or to universities within Europe and has been driven by recent initiatives such EU ministers agreeing on doubling the proportion of students studying abroad to 20 percent by 2020. As a result, having a single ID card solution that can be used across multiple universities is vital. In addition, research conducted by the European Campus Card Association (ECCA) identified the need for interoperability and mobility across the EU. The main benefits would be to facilitate secure access to a range of campus services and provide academic mobility by allowing educational institutions to share information using a common identification card.

Second, the use of mobile devices/smartphones is also gaining traction for varied applications that are replacing the traditional student ID card. American universities such as Arizona State University (ASU) illustrate how universities can offer mobile access using a smartphone as an alternative to or complement to traditional contactless smart cards. The ASU mobile access pilot undertaken by HID Global enabled smartphones to carry secure digital keys. Students found this to be convenient and the pilot provided the university with a streamlined ID card management process. However, in the short- to mid-term mobile access control solutions are expected to co-exist with ID cards on a typical campus, enabling institutions to implement a choice of smart cards, mobile devices or both.

Also increasing in popularity is the use of student ID cards off campus to provide enhanced convenience. For example, using campus cards across different university facilities in multiple countries or using the student ID card as a debit card, as offered by the Santander bank. Campus cards can also be used for public transport to avoid additional ticketing. Most off-campus uses depend on business relationships between campuses and third-party providers and authorities (which can vary from country to country).

From an operational and logistical viewpoint, having an efficient photo ID badging process that can be used both as a student university ID badge and also as an international student identity card (ISIC) is increasingly important. Today, student cards are issued either via a centralised or decentralised process, depending on the country. A decentralised card issuing process enables flexibility and efficiency for high-volume card issuing to students every year. An increasing requirement is field-upgradable printers that can constantly meet evolving needs. In addition, it is critical to incorporate visual and logical technologies for trustworthy authentication and to help deter tampering and forgery. For administrators, it should be easy to synchronize card-encoding information with the student enrolment database and eliminate the possibility of errors.

For secure management of visitors, an upward trend is to have access cards for visitors which can be managed, monitored and audited regularly, and activated and deactivated as necessary via a visitor management system. In addition, since universities tend to be open environments, it has become essential to capture any visitor’s data more quickly, accurately and automatically to combat theft, vandalism and other risks associated with unauthorised visitors.

As universities expand, another important trend is the drive for universities to make it possible for students to use their ID cards to access both old and new buildings or easily use the card from one university campus to another. The access control system and its access control devices (readers and badges) should therefore support the use of one campus card that is interoperable, highly adaptable and part of an open, standards-based access control platform.

Student ID cards are being used as a digital signatures solution to enhance security and protect learning assets. This is both time- and cost-efficient as it replaces slow and expensive paper-based approval and signing processes with fast, low-cost and fully digital solutions. A key driver for use is also compliance with security and privacy regulations and guidelines as defined under general European law (including the EU wide Data Privacy Directive). Digital signatures can be stored securely on smart campus cards and can be used by staff members or students to sign important documents digitally such as examination and lab results.

These trends are expected to gather momentum as higher education institutions continue to focus on facilitating convenience that enable students, staff and faculty to access multiple applications without compromising security.

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