The University of Salford Education Technology Fund (SET Fund) was established to support students
who are unable to access or cannot afford a laptop to assist with their studies. Successful applicants
can select a laptop from a restricted range available through the University of Salford’s nominated
hardware supplier. New and existing students studying for a foundation degree, undergraduate
degree, or postgraduate degree can apply, whether they’re full-time or part-time.
During the coronavirus pandemic, university campuses – including libraries – were closed which
created barriers for those students without readily available digital access. Increasing digital
inclusion has always been important for the University, but it suddenly became a high priority.
The SET Fund aimed to solve this problem by providing laptops to eligible students, but in
anticipation of an influx of applications, the University of Salford required a portal to manage this
together with digitally enabled back-office processes to support end to end delivery.
The portal would link each application to the student record, and needed to be rolled out in a short
time scale to reduce the impact the coronavirus pandemic would have on students’ education. The
aim was to reduce digital exclusion, designing a solution that delivered a positive experience for our
students and colleagues.
Crimson enabled students to apply via a Microsoft Power Platform portal, which linked to their
university email address for verification. As the student record is held within Dynamics 365, relevant
information on the student’s course, demographics and more could be integrated by entering their
course and other relevant data based on their University of Salford Roll Number.
Once the student had applied, the details were then exported from the University of Salford system
and sent to the nominated supplier. The supplier then sent the data back to the University of
Salford, which could be imported back into Dynamics 365 for analysis and reporting. Data on budget,
spend, and session dates is available through management information reporting, and the opening
and closing of sessions is controlled by the University of Salford administrative staff.
Despite a tight timescale to implement the Technology Fund, Crimson built a solution on Microsoft’s
Power Platform in under eight weeks, alongside a supporting application process in Dynamics 365.
This reduced the impact on those students without the required technology at home while learning
remotely due to the COVID-19 lockdown. By offering these students support, both academic
performance and student satisfaction were benefitted.
Crimson and the University of Salford utilised a ‘test and learn’ approach using agile methods,
helping the speed of delivery. This approach was well received by all involved and maintained a rapid
deployment speed for all changes.
1186 awards were made to students between October 2020 and July 2021. The fund is now set up in
anticipation of the 2021/2022 intake of students, following a review of student feedback and
improvements to the student experience and back-end processes based on lessons learnt. University
of Salford employees have been trained on the system, and both the University and the student
body are happy with the results thanks to the rapid development and overall success of the project.
“The collaboration between the University and Crimson has been excellent. Thanks to the
technology fund and our partnership, the University has been able to increase digital inclusion for our students and remove barriers to education.” – Nasrin Fazal, University of Salford.