19 March 2018

Which UK Universities Use Drupal

Since we first conducted this research in 2017, we've seen an increase in UK universities using Drupal as their content management system (CMS) for their core web services, totalling 17 universities (up from 14 last year).

Considering that there are around 130 universities in the UK, ~13% of them using the CMS is a pretty good adoption rate for the platform and this figure will surely rise in the coming months as universities continue to explore the benefits of Drupal 8, beyond its open-source nature.

Who is using it?

The universities currently using Drupal for their core website and web services are:

Bournemouth University https://www1.bournemouth.ac.uk/

Heythrop College http://www.heythrop.ac.uk/

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine http://www.lstmed.ac.uk/

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/

Royal Agricultural University https://www.rau.ac.uk/

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama https://www.cssd.ac.uk/

The University of Edinburgh https://www.ed.ac.uk/

UCL (University College London) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

University of Cambridge http://www.cam.ac.uk/

University of Chester https://www1.chester.ac.uk/

University of Chichester https://www.chi.ac.uk/

University of London https://london.ac.uk/

University of Oxford http://www.ox.ac.uk/

University of Suffolk https://www.uos.ac.uk/

University of Surrey https://www.surrey.ac.uk/

University of West London https://www.uwl.ac.uk/

University of Westminster https://www.westminster.ac.uk/

When conducting this research, we also discovered that specific faculties and research projects within universities are using Drupal within multi-technology setups e.g. Drupal being used for a research project site and Wordpress for key services.

This article only considers universities using Drupal for their core websites and web services, so in fact the total number of universities using the CMS in some shape or form is slightly higher.


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How are Universities using Drupal?

As expected, universities are using Drupal as a content management platform. No surprises there.

Looking deeper into how universities operate, the reality of building and managing websites for a wide variety of faculties, research projects, marketing and recruitment campaigns, and more - all in a sustainable way that integrates with existing systems - is actually quite complex and challenging.

Fortunately, Drupal is well-suited for such challenges.

Centralising web development

One of the biggest challenges for university web development teams is fully supporting multiple faculties and their website requirements, whether that’s a new site, design edits, new functionality, security patches, etc.

These requirements can quickly pile up and 3rd party agencies are often needed to provide extra development capacity to meet faculty demands.

If every faculty uses development agencies recommended by their central web development teams, web projects should be consistent with the university’s branding, CMS preference, and more. The agencies they prefer to work with should be like an extension of the in-house team.

There is, however, the chance of rogue departments with their own budgets working with other digital agencies (outside of the preferred supplier list) and stepping away from the university’s centralised web development standards.

The risk of faculties going their own way can lead to increased web development costs for building and maintaining a variety of platforms, inconsistencies in university branding, data security risks, performance reporting difficulties and overall a less sustainable digital approach.

Drupal, a win for centralised content models

A popular reason for adopting Drupal is its flexibility to support a centralised, hub and spoke content model whereby a single platform codebase is maintained at the core (the hub), containing essential university content and design components, and various frontends for faculties, research projects, key web services, etc. that can be built and launched quickly (the spokes).

Having reusable and configurable components in place for all core site functions also frees up developers to innovate and focus on creating new and exciting functionality to better serve end user needs.

Here’s how MTV used this approach to launch new, content rich websites in international markets in a matter of weeks: MTV Drupal project case study.

Using this approach, new functionality can be developed centrally and rolled out as required to faculty sub-sites in an almost drag and drop fashion. The same goes for security patches and design updates.

See Drupal in action

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a video from IWMW 2017 of Oxford University’s Drupal-based web publishing platform Mosaic and how they went about building it - a great example of how to build a user-centric, cost-effective CMS that centralises web development standards across university faculties.

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