Hundreds of thousands of UK students secure university and college places with a little help from the cloud


With August nearly at a close, students up and down the country who sat GCSE or A Level exams earlier in the summer will have by now received their results. For many of those taking A Levels, the outcome of those exams will have affected their chances of securing a place at university.

The following post was originally posted on the Microsoft News Centre, and looks at how UCAS manages the massive fluctuations in demand on its service over the course of the academic year.

Hundreds of thousands of UK students secure university and college places with a little help from the cloud

Posted August 26, 2015 By Katie Stainer

For students and parents all over the UK, A-level results day is one of the most important moments in the calendar year. Over 450,000 students have been accepted to university or colleges so far this year, and results day in particular causes a huge spike in traffic to the UCAS website. It’s therefore vital that technology plays its part at a time which is already stressful for a lot of young people.

The number of people accessing the system in a short period of time is big. At 08:00, when the systems went live on Thursday 13th August, Track, one of UCAS’ crucial online systems received 249 logins per second with students logging on as early as possible to find out if they had been accepted onto their chosen course. In total Track handled in excess of 1.4 million logins during that day. Last year, UCAS helped more than 700,000 people with places to study at universities and colleges in the UK.

To meet this demand, in recent years UCAS has used Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. This provides resilience and support to students during this heavy usage period. A-level results day is a perfect example of where cloud technology delivers exceptional benefits: enabling UCAS to scale up for the single day where incredibly high numbers of users need their service and then scaling down immediately once the peak demand has passed – meaning UCAS can control its costs effectively.

Fatuma Mahad, Director of Operations and Technology at UCAS added to this point: “Hundreds of thousands of students and hundreds of universities and colleges from across the UK rely on our services to make A-level results day a success. This is why we’re continuing to invest in our online systems, to ensure UCAS delivers the best possible service to all of its customers. A high level of service is expected from us, and cloud computing is a technology that’s proven to work and that we rely on.”

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