University College London

Crafting a digital-first student experience


Higher Education




University College London (UCL) was founded with the objective to open education to all on equal terms, and transform how the world is understood for the long-term benefit of humanity.

A mighty fine goal, and they’ve stayed true to their word. From mental health reform, to finger printing and forensic science, to serving as London’s first family planning clinic, UCL has been at the centre of some of history’s most ground-breaking research.

If you’re always going to be first, you’ve got to keep pushing forward. The university is demonstrating this by embarking on a five-year Digital Masterplan. Quite appropriately the student experience is at the top of the agenda. 


Being both radical and critical thinkers ourselves, we like what the university is setting out to achieve. Our most recent engagement was to help them chart a new strategic digital direction, with a specific focus on improving the student experience. Aptly called ‘UCL Connect’, this project was about delivering an outstanding online experience to staff and students alike. Connected digital journeys, single sign-on, personalisation, collaboration, and the gathering and real-time use of data.

For a university the size of UCL, aligning technology used by every faculty, department and administrative body is tough.

Extensive user experience research had confirmed what the university already suspected – the disjointedness of systems and processes was adversely impacting the student experience. What they needed was a clear way to map user research findings to objectives on a strategic level, and build plans for initiating university-wide change. 



Our consultants jumped right in, building on the findings of the university’s previous research. We built on this with further research, ranging from quantitative survey data to qualitative insights from workshops, interviews and student video diaries – pooling all the information available to us. The picture this painted allowed UCL to see themselves clearly through the lens of real-life students. Plus, it enabled us to understand those students’ goals, motivations and behaviours, so we could create a plan of action.

At the heart of the problem, we discovered disjointed systems and processes that were leading to a poor and clunky user experience.

We took the outputs of our research and defined effective, future user journeys. This determined where content should be personalised and how digital could best be used to enhance the student experience at UCL. This wasn’t a hypothetical exercise; we made it real by mapping these journeys to specific systems issues, timeframes and potential technological solutions. 


The final report into UCL’s existing users identified pain points and features across UCL’s entire digital ecosystem, at the same time empowering departments to work together to resolve problems using a flexible dataset that can be customised according to their specific requirements.  

Our evidence-based and customer-led approach clarified the methodology, timescales and resources required to deliver a single digital interface for all users, with joined-up processes and content.

We capitalised on the latest innovations in digital so UCL are now in a stronger position to optimise service delivery, reduce spending and improve student satisfaction. As the university builds on our research to implement ‘UCL Connect’ and their wider digital transformation plans, we’ll be right there, supporting them at every step.

If you’d like to learn more about this project, get in touch.



  • Technical strategy
  • UX strategy
  • Digital strategy
  • Data-driven research
  • Analytics

User experience

  • UX design
  • Information architecture
  • User research



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