Microsoft licensing for schools – a new option appears from the crowd

A year ago we started conversations with OGC and Becta to refresh our licensing schemes, with a goal of adding in some more flexibility for individual customers, and responding to changes in the way that all public sector organisations use ICT. With OGC (now known as Buying Solutions) we looked at the whole of public sector excluding education. And with Becta we looked solely at education.

Across the rest of the public sector that resulted in the new Public Sector Agreement (or PSA09) which introduces more flexibility over the choice of product packages and subscription arrangements – matching up with the Chancellor’s statements in the budget that public sector organisations should review carefully the need to own assets. And Angela Eagles, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury ‘praised’ the new agreement as it could save £75m over the next five years.


This new agreement will contribute to the Government’s efficiency targets in support of its Operational Efficiency Programme, and clearly demonstrates the huge benefits that can be achieved through collaborative procurement. Endquotes

Now it’s the turn of education

Today, we’ve announced the outcome of our discussions with Becta, and are launching a pilot programme for a new licensing option, specifically for UK schools.

It’s a bit of a mouthful, as it is called the ‘Subscription Enrolment for Schools – UK Pilot’, so let’s call it SESP for now! It gives you a mid-way option between the Select Agreement and the School Agreement. Here’s the simple bullet points for SESP:

  • It’s a subscription agreement - you pay an annual subscription, based on what you choose to license

  • You can choose to either license some/all of your students, or some/all of your computers

  • If you choose to license by students, you also get the rights for those students to use the same software at home free (eg if you license Office 2007, then every student can also install it on their home computer too)

  • When we release new software versions, you’re automatically covered to use them (think Windows 7 & Office 2010!)

  • Because it is a subscription, you’re only renting the software. So if you cancel your subscription, you have to stop using the software (or convert the licences to perpetual licences by doing something called a ‘buy-out’)

When is it likely to be helpful?

There are some clear scenarios when this could be helpful to you in a school, for example:

  • If you have previously bought Select licences, and you want to upgrade some of your software (to either move towards subscription, or reduce your up-front cost). For example, you decide that to meet the Information Security guidelines from Becta, you want to install Windows 7 to get BitLocker and BitLocker To Go – to encrypt all of your laptop disks and USB memory keys.
    You can use SESP to get upgrade just your teachers’ licences

  • You have a current School Agreement covering all of your computers, but 20% of them don’t use Office.
    You can ‘downgrade’ to SESP to only license those that do use Office. But don’t forget you’ll need to make sure the other computers have the right perpetual Windows upgrade (eg Windows Business) to run on your school network.

  • You want to allow students to bring in their own laptops, but want to have the same software on them that are on your school computers, eg Windows Business to connect to the network, and Office 2007
    With the student option, you are licensed for the computer the student uses, whether you own it or they do, and whether it is at home or school.

  • Your IT technician is bored, and wants more paperwork to deal with.
    Only joking…a bit. If you have a current School Agreement, all you have to do today is count all your computers, once a year. With SESP there will be more work to record which groups are covered under which licences, so will mean more record keeping. But that’s worth it if you want to have lots of different configurations of software packages across different machines/users.

My summary table of options

Here’s my quick summary of the three main options you now have




School Agreement

Licence Type





All-up front

Annual fee

Annual fee

How you license

One option:

Buy each licence that you need, when you need it

Four options:

Student – count all your students OR a ‘clearly defined’ group that you want to license

Computer – count all computers OR a ‘clearly defined’ group that you want to license

One option:

Simply count all your school computers, and choose what you want to license









Initial Cost
per licence




Ongoing cost
per licence*


Same as year 1

Same as year 1

Automatic upgrade rights

unless you also buy Software Assurance



Where to find out more

You can read more about SESP (including a comprehensive 11 page FAQ document) on the UK Education website. But the real place to find out more is the education licensing expert at your current Microsoft Education Large Account Reseller. Not only will they understand the nuances, but they can also help you with the pricing.

Licensing can be notoriously complicated, so can I also recommend a quick read of How to get the best deal on Microsoft software, which pre-dates today’s news, but is a step-by-step guide on how to select the best licence arrangement for schools. (My most important tip is ‘Don’t buy an Open licence without reading it first!’)

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