Two female students at Imperial College London look at a laptop screen

How Imperial College London is ensuring a digital-first experience for students

As a world-leading university specialising in science, technology, engineering, and business, Imperial College London, unsurprisingly, prides itself on being on the cutting edge of technology.

And with 8,000 staff and over 22,000 students, technology is instrumental in ensuring students have a smooth learning journey.

“Today, students are digital-first, so we have to be digital-first, too,” says Juan Villamil, Chief Information Officer at Imperial. “It’s critical that we provide an excellent student experience every time they interact with us.”

Fragmented to unified: A digital-first approach 

The team at Imperial have a core aim: to provide a fully integrated digital experience for students across their lifelong learning journey – from helping them find out more about the university and applying for their course, through to studying, accommodation, graduating, and being part of the alumni network.

Prior to their digital-first approach, Imperial’s technology used to be fragmented, with over 200 projects in development and departments operating in silos. The university worked with all faculties to develop a unified technology strategy.

“We had to think differently, and we worked with Microsoft to support this,” explains Villamil. “They understood what we wanted to achieve, which was putting the student and their experience first. For us at Imperial, Microsoft was the chosen platform because it is powerful, flexible, scalable, and affordable.”

Consolidating CRMs for a scalable and flexible solution 

For Imperial this meant moving critical workloads to Microsoft’s Azure cloud and using Power Platform and Dynamics 365 to consolidate multiple separate and disconnected Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.  

The consolidated CRMs will become a single source of information across the organisation, giving all teams across the university one vision of what’s happening across its campuses. When students digitally interact with the university, that information will be collated automatically by one system and shared safely, securely, and compliantly with departments and faculties so they can understand the needs of individuals and entire classes and decide the best way to provide learning.

With Dynamics and the Power Platform, Imperial now has full control of its development roadmap, enabling it to deliver fantastic experiences to staff and students.  

“The tools in Azure are standardised, so everything fits together,” Villamil explains. “I don’t have to think about different stacks, just one. It means that we now own our own digital roadmap. Today, we set our own goals and we can create the roadmap in Azure to achieve them.”

Skyline view of the exterior of Imperial College London in South Kensington

View of Imperial’s buildings in South Kensington. Copyright: Imperial College London

Fostering student innovation  

Villamil is working to integrate the ICT team in every department at the College, so staff use it to support their day-to-day work, rather than a separate team that’s just there to solve problems with laptops.

Imperial is encouraging its 22,000 students to use Power Platform, too through its Power apps Community of Practice, and by engaging with students to enable the creation of digital solutions for the university.

The start of a new digital chapter 

“Our work with Imperial College London is a perfect example of how Cloud-based technology can transform learning for students and empower faculty teams,” says Rob Smithson, Business Applications Lead at Microsoft UK.  “Imperial now has a joined-up system based on Dynamics 365 and Power Platform that gives everyone — from faculty to admin staff and students — visibility of what is important to them across campuses.”

“By encouraging students to use Power Platform to develop apps and tools that are beneficial to their learning journey, they also gain valuable ‘low code, no code’ experience, a skill that could be hugely valuable and appealing to employers as these students enter the workforce.”

For Villamil, it’s the start of a new chapter for Imperial’s digital transformation. “Imperial is on a digital journey that will never end,” Villamil adds. “We will continue to invest in technology and continuously transform to offer the best experience for our students and staff.”

Click here to learn more about how Microsoft technology can support education.