University of the West of England

At a Glance

  • Boosts staff productivity through access to video
  • Increases student productivity
  • Helps UWE to consistently be rated First Class
  • Enables distance learning globally
  • On-demand recorded lectures eliminated redundancy

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University of the West of England Saves Costs Using Unified Communications to Boost Staff and Student Productivity

The University of the West of England saves an annual travel budget cost of £100,000 by utilizing video to connect staff with students for lectures, tutors and online meetings.


The University of the West England (UWE) is one of leading universities in UK and the largest provider of Higher Education in the South West of England. With 30,000 student and 3,000 staff, spread over four campuses in and around Bristol, it offers over 600 courses at Undergraduate, Postgraduate and short course levels.


The UWE wanted to develop new and effective methods of learning and teaching to train “industry-ready” innovators through three “presences” of physical, virtual and web. The UWE also wanted to enable people to work with and interact through all three in rich and dynamic ways. In order to progress, the UWE needed to overhaul its IT infrastructure and upgrade to a High Definition UC video solution that would enable collaboration throughout its global network of partner universities and colleges located throughout Europe, Vietnam, Malaysia and the USA.

With a student village of about 2,000 study bedrooms on campus, the University had already started to see some bottlenecks in the network through the use of social networks and media sites. Research had already shown that network traffic would continue to grow with 80% of the traffic forecasted to be video traffic, rather than just text and data.

In 2010, the UWE entered into a five-year collaboration as part of a larger investment to improve the student experience and create a new program of study, internships, and state-of-the-art Education Innovation Centre. The outcome is an ICT transformation program providing simulated work and home settings for students and faculty to educate “industry-ready” innovators who can quickly make a contribution to the UK workforce with their advanced skills.

Solutions and Implementation

Through the ICT transformation program the university worked with ‘best in class’ vendors to purchase equipment and developed strategic partnerships with its tier one technology vendors to form a consortium. This included electrical systems provider Schneider, partnering with HP for network infrastructure, Microsoft for Microsoft® Lync™, and Polycom for video collaboration solutions. The goal was to share the university’s IT development plans so that the consortium could provide input and share best practice examples achieved in other business sectors.

HP deployed a next-generation network and integrated the Polycom and Microsoft offerings to provide a standards-based, interoperable unified communications solution. One of the program’s major focuses was to improve video facilities and to make it easier for staff and students alike to collaborate through a fully interoperable unified communications solution.

“As a large organisation with many international partners, we needed to connect our diverse communities with technologies that would help save time and costs,” continues Steve Grive. “With HP’s help, we were able to use Polycom video solutions and Microsoft Lync to transform communications across our global network, as well as between students and staff for an enhanced learning experience.”

The delivery of both Microsoft Lync and Polycom solutions provide an end-to-end unified communications solution. Staff are now able to access video on their desktop by clicking a name within the Lync contact list and instantly meet with a colleague face-to-face via video on the Polycom RealPresence Platform. This highly personalised unified communications experience has allowed staff to conduct online meetings easily, which in turn has boosted productivity.

The UWE extended their video collaboration to include nine video conferencing suites featuring Polycom RealPresence HDX 7000 and HDX 4000 Room Telepresence Solutions as they provide unmatched performance over congested IP networks and are strategically placed in every campus facility around Bristol and Gloucester.

By using the video recording, archiving, and streaming playback capabilities of the Polycom RealPresence Platform, the UWE has eliminated the costs associated with “double teaching,” where a lecture has to be held twice to accommodate all interested students. Lectures are now able to be recorded and streamed from one lecture theater to another through the use of Polycom RMX 4000 and CMA 5000.

Polycom video collaboration solutions are core to UWE’s distance learning and video-on-demand initiatives. Although used predominantly for interaction between UWE staff and other institutions staff, video conferencing is also used for interactions between UWE staff and international students, for distance learning where an international college is running a master’s program associated with UWE and a student wants an interview with their tutor.

Through video conferencing the university communicates with partner universities around the globe for course validation meetings. There can be more than six validation meetings a year, with as many as five university staff flying out to help develop material and validate the degree. By meeting virtually using Polycom video conferencing instead, UWE have reduced validation costs by around £25,000, and in addition reduced the costs for associated regional agents, offices and ad-hoc partner arrangements, totaling about £100,000 per annum in travel savings. These results have helped the UWE to consistently be rated as First Class in the People and Planet Green League and to be certified with the Carbon Trust Standard.

The UWE’s use of unified communications has enabled the univerity to underpin its international agenda and be more productive by to linking up with their international partners more readily at a lower cost whilst providing the ability to support partners, staff and students in terms of its teaching and learning.

Also, by providing students the equivalent technology to that of an employer environment they gain an understanding and are preparing from day one for a work environment.

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