Challenging the status quo is a fairly common practice for leaders in any sector, but one area that has remained relatively unchallenged in education is that of how traditionally back-office systems are deployed. Despite advances in cloud-based technology, on-premise has remained the dominant option, especially for student information systems. However, between 2015/16 and 2020/21 academic years, cloud spending within UK education is predicted to increase by nearly 70% from £74M to £125M  as leaders look to the cloud to help tackle their strategic challenges.
This upturn in cloud adoption in UK education is being attributed to a handful of reasons: technological readiness; market pressures; adoption of mobile and blended learning approaches; and a general shift in mindset towards ‘cloud first’.
This is often seen from the institution and consumer’s perspective – high-speed connectivity, access to devices, acknowledgement that security considerations have evolved and might be better mitigated by the big tech firms, rather than in-house teams – all these factors put education leaders in a much more comfortable position to consider the cloud. But coupled with this is the technological readiness of the vendors of traditionally back-office systems themselves. Vendors have in some cases implemented their solutions in the cloud, and elsewhere vendors have taken it a step further to actually develop native apps, giving institutions greater benefits from their cloud deployment of student information systems.
Operating ever-leaner organisations has become a given for leaders in education. Significant investments in hardware costs has resulted in many institutions either over-provisioning or sweating their assets to meet the fluctuating demands of the organisation. Cloud offers a viable and sustainable alternative with pricing that reflects their usage patterns across the academic year. At the same time, staff that previously managed and maintained hardware can turn their attentions to more value -adding, innovative workloads.
Mobile and blended learning approaches
Advances in learning approaches acknowledge how the learning experience is increasingly traversing the boundaries of the classroom, and also how the expectations of increasingly digital native students are changing. Availability, speed and access demands put unprecedented pressures on back-office systems, pressures that are alleviated by cloud infrastructures.
The general shift towards cloud-first mindset
This can be perfectly illustrated by Tribal’s conversations with its customers. Jon Baldwin, Managing Director for Higher Education at Tribal, observes, “We find ourselves engaging more with CIOs than ever before as institutions increasingly bring in senior technical personnel, often from the private sector, to handle the paradigm shift. It has now become the exception for a new HE institution to take our student information system in the on-premise form, regardless of the size of institution; it’s pretty much cloud every time.” And that situation is not restricted to HE; there is an inexorable shift across Further Education and work-based learning sectors too.
For many, it would seem, the catalysts are too powerful to ignore if they are to achieve their strategic goals. For others however, the business case continues to grow and maybe they will find themselves playing catch-up with their counterparts who seized the opportunities earlier on.
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Why not take a look at the next blog in our cloud series Top drivers for UK education cloud adoption
 JISC, 2015