University of Surrey Students Union: SharePoint 2013 Case Study

There are more, further and higher education options for young people today than ever before. With colleges and universities competing for students, it’s paramount that an institution’s online presence demonstrates everything they have to offer socially as well as academically. This is especially truthful at A-level results time. Students are frantically reviewing their offers for placements or perhaps searching for the best institutions through Clearing. So for the University of Surrey Students’ Union, having a website that exhibits everything that university life has to offer in Surrey, in the best possible light is one thing, but having a site that can handle that potentially high volume of visitors at one time is something else.


The Union had a number of concerns with their original web pages. At first glance the site looked attractive and something that would appeal to students, but further investigation revealed a large gap between usability and functionality. Student feedback told them that the pages were difficult to navigate and finding what they were looking for caused frustration. There were also issues with many clubs and associations wanting the site to be updated regularly with updates and event information. Creating additional workloads for the site managers.

Analytics taken from August 1st – October 19th 2012 backed this up. The stats below show that between this date-range the site had 60,660 hits. The most important day in this range was Thursday August 16th 2012, which was A-level results day; on that day students have confirmation of where they are going to study, and on that day the union only had 1,486 visitors. Another concerning statistic was the bounce rate at 41.29%.


Almost half of the visitors went no further than the home page. Was this because they had found all they had intended to find from the home page? Or because they unable to navigate through the options? Furthermore the site was only being accessed by 2% of people on mobile devices. Another area the needed focus.


Consequently the Union set about a complete overhaul of the site using the intelligence of Microsoft Dynamics NAV which would not only dramatically improve the user experience offering precise engagement by personalising the pages to the interests, socially and academically of the students but also offer a user-friendly mobile site which would combat the recent low statistics and work in favour of the students busy lives by making the site perform smarter with much easier accessibility.

The new site, built on SharePoint 2013, was developed by SharePoint Specialists, Business Agility and was ready in time for A-level results day, Thursday, August 15th 2013. Equipped with a new look and feel which offered smooth navigation responding to the needs of the individual or student club or association.

The following snapshot shows the difference, on A-level day there were 2,945 visitors. However the most striking result was the bounce rate. From previously over 40% it had now plummeted to under 5%, with the pages per visit almost doubling. The time per visit has remained the same which showed them that their visitors are no longer, sitting and waiting for the pages to load.


The Union were really impressed with the personalisation of the new site. Via Business Intelligence functionality within Dynamics 2013, students were able to login and see a completely tailored and unique page to their student life. Updates from their academic departments or event notices and information from their social clubs and associations. They were even able to access the financial statements from these associations so there is complete transparency as to how the funds are being spent.

With people now accessing some of their most important information through mobile devices, the original statistic of only 2% of mobile visitors was disappointing, so to have this increase to 18% was a fantastic improvement. This was incredibly important as the Union wanted students to have easy accessibility. Currently almost a third of visitors are accessing the site via a mobile device.

However, probably the greatest result of the new version of the website was that between 2012 – 2013 the union saw a huge 10,000 visitor increase.

This is what Alan Sutherland, University of Surrey Student Union had to say on the development:

“One of the greatest challenges in working within the HE sector is the rapid turnover of the user base each year. As the final years graduate, and first years arrive, in just 3 years we have a complete change in audience. It is difficult as a small Union within a medium sized University to produce a compelling online service that matches companies with far bigger financial firepower than we have access to. Adopting Microsoft services end to end however does open up cost effective opportunities to create innovative solutions that deliver an exceptional result”

This case study is a shining example of how a well designed and implemented SharePoint 2013 site combined with Microsoft Dynamics 2013, can be tailored perfectly to provide a 360 solution for an academic institution to meet the needs of it’s students and faculty members.

If you would like to know more about what a SharePoint 2013 site could do for your institution why not get in touch with the team here at


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