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Is Drupal Right for Universities? A Strategic Perspective

Selecting a CMS for a university can be a challenging decision. There are so many needs and nuances to consider - costs of implementation and maintenance, a wide-range of technical ability among site administrators, developers and content editors, a variety of end users looking for different information and the list goes on and on. While your answer likely isn’t as easy as, “let’s just do what everyone else is doing,” by better understanding why other universities made the choice they did can shed light into your decision-making process. 

Drupal is far and above the most used CMS in higher education - 26% of all .edu domain sites are in Drupal, including 71 of the top 100 universities. 

So why are universities like MIT, Georgia Tech, Louisiana State University, Butler, Stanford, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League universities choosing Drupal? 

Simply put, Drupal makes good business sense, especially with the added benefits of Drupal 8. At Mediacurrent, we believe your website is your greatest digital asset and can be leveraged to accomplish organizational-wide goals. Drupal makes that possible. Here’s how:  

Communicate With All Students - Prospective, Current, and Alumni 

If you want to reach your full recruiting and fundraising potential, you need to communicate with your entire audience. There are a variety of Drupal features that ease the stress of common communication challenges. 

Language:  Not only are their multiple languages spoken within the U.S., but our country hosts over a million international students. Drupal makes creating a multilingual digital experience simpler. Native language handling is built directly into Drupal 8’s core APIs, giving you over 100 languages to choose from. With that functionality it is easier than ever to engage with prospective students across the globe in a meaningful way.

Accessibility: The CDC estimates that 20% of U.S. adults identify as having a disability. These disabilities often hinder people’s ability to interact with the average website. Drupal is an inclusive community and has committed to ensuring that all features of Drupal conform with w3C and WCAG 2.0. Pair that with a strong higher-education focused accessibility strategy and your potential audience could grow by 20%. 

Technology: According to the 2017 College Explorer Market Research Study, the average college student owns 5.6 devices and spends 137+ hours on them! This may seem like common sense now, but if you want to engage with students, you need to account for a variety of screen sizes. Thankfully, Drupal 8 is designed with a mobile-first mentality and includes out-of-the-box responsive functionality. 

Personalization: Universities face added complexity when it comes to digital strategy due to the broad audiences they appeal to. With so many unique people coming to the same pages, content strategy, conversion path mapping and optimization, and defining strong call to actions can be a struggle. By incorporating personalization into your content strategy, whether that is personalized based on user authentication or by integrating tools like Acquia Lift or Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can speak to the masses but make them feel like you’re speaking specifically to them. 

Reduce Overhead Costs + Increase Operational Efficiencies with Drupal

Drupal can have a dramatic impact on reducing overhead costs and increasing operational efficiency. Universities have a big need for multiple websites: departments, colleges, libraries, and student organizations all want their own website. The direct cost of supporting this many sites along with resourcing the training and support is expensive and encourages unnecessary technology sprawl. As an open source technology (no licensing fees!) along with the multisite feature, creating sites for these different groups is exponentially easier, more cost effective, and ensures brand consistency. 

You can also increase efficiency, ensure content consistency and improve the user experience by creating a “source of truth”.

Write content once and publish it anywhere it’s relevant.

Having to update content such as curriculum or an academic calendar on multiple pages is inefficient and unnecessary. Write once, publish everywhere, save time. 

Improve Brand Equity + Amplify Digital Strategy

As a university, your brand is a powerful asset. You spend significant energy and resources on building loyalty to bolster several organizational goals from recruiting efforts, engaging current students on campus and fundraising among alumni.

With your website being the hub of your marketing strategy, it is critical for your CMS of choice to play nice with your marketing efforts.

Drupal happens to be very SEO friendly out of the box, but there are also advanced configuration options available to support a more sophisticated SEO strategy. You can amplify your digital strategy by integrating your marketing tools and communication platforms directly with Drupal. And the 26% percent of other .edu sites using Drupal make integrating your university-specific tools to your website easier. 

Reduce Risk

I’d be remiss without mentioning security and GDPR compliance. As a university, you hold sensitive information about the students who have attended your school and they are trusting you to keep that secure.

The Drupal community is passionate about security and has an industry leading global security team to ensure your site is protected.

Additionally, as the landscape of privacy rights changes around the world (most recently, GDPR), it’s in your best interest to stay on top of it and reduce the risk of being penalized for data collection practices. 

Have questions about how Drupal can benefit your university? Let us know. We’d be happy to chat. 

Danielle Headshot

Meet team member, Danielle Barthelemy

Danielle is a Senior Digital Strategist who loves all types of marketing from marketing strategy to social marketing. She built her impressive expertise through her time in education and various...

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