UK edtech firm Tribal Group enlists Microsoft Azure in its fight against student dropouts

A UK company whose student support technology is used by the University of Oxford and King’s College London has signed up to Microsoft’s cloud platform to ensure it can help more people remain in education.

Tribal Group, which is based in Bristol, has created some of the world’s leading Student Information Systems (SIS). These allow people studying at colleges and universities to raise concerns about their learning, while teachers can also spot issues with individuals and monitor their progress to help them complete their courses.

According to the latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 6.2% of young students and 11.7% of mature students dropped out of their UK higher education course in 2014/15. While this is below the near-8% rates seen in the late-90s and early-2000s, the number has been rising over the past few years.

Tribal has been developing a next-generation, cloud-based SIS entitled Tribal Edge, and has now chosen to run it on Microsoft Azure in a bid to expand the service beyond its key markets of the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

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6.2% of young students and 11.7% of mature students dropped out of their UK higher education course in 2014/15

Ian Bowles, Chief Executive of Tribal, said: “Microsoft is a clear leader with the breadth of its cloud offerings. That, coupled with a focus on education, made Microsoft the obvious partner for our next-generation cloud offering. Working with Microsoft, we will be able to offer a host of new, complementary solutions to our extensive education customer base. By adopting Azure as our cloud platform, we know that our customers can deploy these innovative solutions quickly and with minimal effort.

“Working with an eco-system of partners, we are underlining our commitment to continue to provide our customers with the best Student Information Systems available and to maintain the pace of advancement that the cloud affords us.”

Tribal’s SIS is used by more than 80 higher education institutions in the UK alone, including the University of St Andrews. Tribal Edge allows students to “quickly raise support issues, wherever they are, on any device and get a response instantly”, the company says on its website, and all communication is logged in one place. The system also lets staff spot at-risk students earlier, letting staff “solve student problems quicker” to improve retention rates.

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Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “It is important for us to work with an organisation that truly understands the education sector and the specific needs of this market, and was aligned with our vision of ‘empowering students of today to create the world of tomorrow’. We are delighted to be able to work with Tribal as the market leader in Student Information Systems for higher and further education, and its commitment to the Microsoft Azure platform is a further endorsement of Microsoft’s cloud and application offerings.

“Jointly, we will be able to offer a significant advantage to education institutions that puts students at the heart of what they do, with technology that enables access at any time, from anywhere. This collaboration will truly deliver on the potential of cloud and mobile solutions to enhance the learning experience for all. We are looking forward to delivering exceptional value to our joint education customers.”

The move will also give universities access to Azure features such as customer relations, human resources and resource planning. Microsoft’s secure cloud platform is currently used by start-ups, governments and 90% of Fortune 500 businesses.