Kingston University case study

The higher education sector is now as commercially driven as big business. As government funding has declined, universities have had to become more financially adept. It all comes down to a blunt equation, more students = more income.

The higher education sector is now as commercially driven as big business. As government funding has declined, universities have had to become more financially adept. It all comes down to a blunt equation, more students = more income.

It’s now more important than ever for universities to fill all of their available places by attracting and recruiting as many students as possible.

Marketing obviously plays a big part in attracting as many potential students as possible to any university. Competition for students is intense so university staff need to make sure that they’re not missing any calls from potential students, and, when they get through, the callers need to get through to the right person quickly and smoothly.

Old technology foiling new students

During their busy recruitment drives, the outdated technology couldn’t cope with the marked increase in calls coming through over a short period. Worse than that, the system was increasingly expensive to maintain and run, and there was no back-up plan for if anything went wrong.

Simon Harrison is Kingston’s Chief Information Officer.

‘The number of calls we get shoots up as soon as the A-level results come out’, he told us. ‘As with most universities, we take a number of students through Clearing, with most being offered places in the first couple of days  – so if the phones aren’t working, we stand to lose potential students. We simply couldn’t run the risk of losing the possible income’.

BT already provided the university’s voice services and IP phone system, so Simon discussed ways round the Clearing problem with his BT account manager, Antonella Bisonni.

IP solution transforms how people work at the university

Antonella recommended a BT Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunk solution – the snappily titled BT One Voice SIP Trunk UK. The clever thing with this solution is the university uses its IP connection for calls rather than the traditional phone lines, helping to save on call charges.

To remove the risk of the phone system going down, BT installed a BT IP Connect Wide Area Network. As the access circuits are in different locations, at two of the university’s data centres, the phone lines are always available. If anything goes wrong with one circuit, (cable damage during building works, for example) calls automatically re-route to the other one. So for the university, the calls never drop.

And because the network uses Multiprotocol Layer Switching (MPLS) technology to prioritise voice calls, callers can always get through to the university. What’s more, the university can effectively switch SIP channels on and off, matching call capacity to demand so when things get busy they can expand the system to take more calls.   

Finally, the university opted for Cisco IP phones.

‘They’ve transformed the way we work’, says Simon. ‘People can move around our campuses and take their phone numbers with them. I can leave my office, go somewhere else, and log in on my extension number to take calls and pick up voicemail.’

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