The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is the world’s first and oldest international university network. It has more than 500 member institutions across the Commonwealth. It promotes and supports excellence in higher education, so both individuals and societies, as a whole, can benefit and administers several large scholarships programmes on behalf of the British government.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the world’s first and oldest international university network, works with more than 500 member institutions across the Commonwealth. The ACU administers the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s flagship scholarship programmes. The Chevening Scholarships Programme alone attracts more than 20,000 applicants each year. Managing the application process is a huge task, and the ACU needed a secure way of sharing information about applicants with those who review them. “We knew we had to manage a project of this scale online. But when dealing with personal information, email wouldn’t have been secure enough and it was simply not possible to photocopy each application and send it via post or courier. So, we started to look for a secure cloud platform,” said Brian Ferrar, Director International Relations, Chevening Scholarships Secretariat at the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Keeping sensitive information secure is paramount

The Association of Commonwealth Universities carried out in depth market research to see what cloud platforms were on offer. Security topped the list of priorities due to the sensitive nature of the information being shared. Huddle is pan-government accredited at IL2 and works with 80% of central UK Government departments and many other public sector organizations.

“It was important to us that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had confidence in what we were doing, as they owned all the information we needed. So we required a tool that was accredited and used by other government organizations,” explains Ferrar.

Once the applications are uploaded to Huddle, a team of sifters look through information extracted from the applications to establish who is eligible for the scheme. Applicants that meet the criteria will then be put in front of review committees. The committees then decide who the best applicants are and refer them to the relevant British Embassies or High Commissions to carry out the final interview process. In order to carefully manage the complex approvals process, the ACU can set up a new workspace for each review committee, Embassy, or High Commission, so they only have access to the information relevant to them.

Every application in one secure place—accessible from anywhere

“Using Huddle, each person involved in the process can review the applications securely online. They will have all the information they need about each candidate in one place and they can work from wherever they are—even when they’re travelling. Prior to Huddle, people would have had no choice but to carry around piles of paper and this is completely unnecessary in this digital age,” said Ferrar.

Before the deployment of Huddle, the ACU would have had to post secure data sticks or even photocopies of the applications to the people that needed to review them. Huddle now enables them to review and share important information instantly. Huddle is now being used by the team internally at the ACU and in over 100 Embassies and High Commissions around the world.

“Huddle’s been absolutely essential for us. We wouldn’t have been able to consider the applications in such a short timescale if we hadn’t rolled out the technology. We have two other schemes that we are now planning to use Huddle for as well,” said Ferrar.

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