Education for a Wi-Fi nation

In the 50+ years the University of Bradford has existed, the students it serves and the world in which it exists have changed drastically

Higher education has gone from paper-based study to relying heavily on mobile technology and the internet. It therefore comes as no surprise that keeping up with such constantly evolving technology is a challenge for higher education institutions.

The mobile boom in particular is something the University of Bradford knew it needed to cater for. Ofcom now states that more than half of UK adults own a smartphone, with 75% of 16-24 year olds regularly using their smartphones to access the internet. Today’s students were born into the mobile generation. They expect to be able to access all manner of online tools from their devices such as social networks, news sources and apps.

“We already provided Wi-Fi access to our resident students and staff but we often welcome people from elsewhere, for example prospective students and their parents attending open days,” explained Jill Bell, computer network manager at the University of Bradford.

“We also have an app, ‘About UoB,’ which provides information like maps, plus details of various on-campus venues. This is designed to help people who do not know the campus well. Because of that, we knew that to provide the best campus experience, our visitors required fast, free internet access.”

Graduating to Wi-Fi

One option was to provide people with temporary access to the student/staff Wi-Fi network by registering them individually. However this was a time-consuming, manual option, so was soon dismissed. Instead, the university sought to partner with a Wi-Fi provider which could offer the kind of service it needed, without investing in additional resource both from a staff and budget perspective.

In 2009, the university signed a deal with The Cloud, the UK’s biggest provider of public access Wi-Fi, with over 20,000 live locations including the City of London, Southampton City Council and M&S, in addition to many other universities. With over 10 years in providing internet access across large areas, the university was confident that The Cloud could offer the kind of reliable service its visitors required. 

“When speaking with The Cloud we were impressed by how simple the service would be to manage. The only cost to us is a reasonable monthly fee. For that our visitors get fast, free Wi-Fi so they can stay connected as they visit,” explained Bell. 

“The initial roll-out of the Wi-Fi was smooth and completed quickly with no disruption to students, staff or visitors. Very quickly, our visitors were online and able to access online services from their mobiles. 

Connected Campus

With fast, free internet connection, visitors are able to fully experience life on-campus – using The Cloud to access online service such as social media and apps. The Cloud’s FastConnect App has also helped to drive usage – meaning visitors are automatically connected to the Wi-Fi network when they arrive on campus.

“Everyone from construction teams working on building improvements to parents visiting the campus can use the Wi-Fi and it’s proving a vital tool in ensuring people have the best experience at the university,” added Bell.

“Since implementation, there have also been upgrades to the service. In 2013 The Cloud partnered with Janet, part of JISC Group, the UK’s expert on digital technologies for research and education. This led to improvements to the infrastructure and we’ve seen the Wi-Fi become even more reliable since. We’re delighted with the service – it has added to the experience of visiting the campus and ensured we are fully providing for the mobile generation.”