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Somerville College

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  • Extend wireless connectivity to stay ahead of increased demand and advanced technology expectations from upwardly mobile students.
  • Sought a high performance solution to enhance the living and working experience across the entire campus – inside and out.
  • Deliver the same high level of technology access expected from an international business to remain competitive and attract the next generation of top-flight students and academics.
  • Implement a Wireless infrastructure that would easily scale with minimal disruption to the IT department’s day-to-day operational load.


  • Differentiates Somerville from other Colleges and UK institutions, and matches Wi-Fi footprints of competing international Universities.
  • HiveManager enables IT to manage the WLAN from a single platform, seamlessly integrated into the existing virtualized environment.
  • Integration with EduRoam provides wider University community with a seamless, secure connectivity experience on entering Somerville.
  • With no controller, and per-AP licensing, Somerville can quickly extend connectivity to new buildings without cost or technical constraints.


Pioneering Somerville College Deploys Aerohive Networks’ Wi-Fi to Attract the Next Generation of Students

The University of Oxford has 38 independent and self-governing colleges. The colleges bring together leading academics and students across subjects and year groups, and from different cultures and countries.

Somerville College was founded in 1879 to give women, at that time excluded from membership of the University, the chance to benefit from an Oxford education. The college, which has admitted men since 1994, is now home to around 400 undergraduates and 100 graduate students and, situated next to the major new development of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, is today placed right at the heart of 21st century Oxford life.

Somerville College continues to foster its open and pioneering spirit, and became the first University of Oxford College to embark on a project to provide blanket Wi-Fi for all staff and students.

WLAN Network Challenges

As an early adopter of Wi-Fi technology seven years ago, Somerville already provided some wireless connectivity in select areas of the College, such as libraries and conference rooms. The college understood that this ad-hoc approach to wireless needed to be reassessed in order to stay ahead of increased demand and advanced technology expectations from existing and prospect students.

Chris Bamber, IT Manager at Somerville College, said, “As smartphones and iPads become the norm, we wanted to make sure we are perfectly placed to support the connectivity demands of both the existing crop of students, but moreover, the next generation of prospects looking to embark on a University career.”

The college is in constant use throughout the year, hosting international conferences and seminars during term breaks. This activity generates important revenue for the college, and extending Wi-Fi across the campus would help entice those choosing summer courses or conferences as well as term time students. In fact, Somerville deems wireless availability as key to attracting top-flight students and academics in an increasingly competitive and costconscious higher education sector.

Bamber commented, “We have Ethernet connections in all our student accommodation, but we must be aware of changing user IT behaviour and the devices students want to use today. To remain a top Oxford college we need to deliver the same high level of technology access you’d expect from an international business.”

Bamber and his team sought to implement a high performance Wi-Fi solution throughout the entire campus – both inside and out.

With its current WLAN made up of ad hoc and unmanaged 3Com APs, Somerville required a solution that would not only meet the immediate connectivity demands of its students and staff, but would also easily scale with minimal disruption to the IT department’s day-to-day operational load.

The Aerohive Wi-Fi Solution

Beating off competition from Aruba and Cisco, Somerville chose Aerohive for its ability to provide superior scalability and ease of management, at a long-term lower price point.

The WLAN, implemented by ICT partner, LAN3, also integrates with EduRoam, the secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community. This provides academic staff, and the wider University community, to securely access EduRoam with a seamless connectivity experience on entering Somerville.

LAN3 and Somerville began its implementation of Aerohive APs in March 2011, with staff and students already benefitting from the extended Wi-Fi coverage. The college worked in close partnership with LAN3 to complete the roll-out of Hive APs in preparation for the start of the next academic year.

Benefits of an Aerohive WLAN Solution

The Aerohive implementation not only differentiates Somerville from other Oxford Colleges and UK institutions, but matches the Wi-Fi footprints of competing international Universities, where students have benefitted from blanket Wi-Fi coverage for a number of years.

Somerville now has a WLAN that serves to match the facilities expected from today’s international businesses, Bamber concluded, “We’ve invested in Aerohive for the future. We recognise that technology plays an increasingly important role in college choice for prospect students – it is a key differentiator for us.”

A further benefit is gained from Aerohive’s HiveManager Virtual Appliance network management system (NMS). This enables Somerville’s IT team to manage the WLAN from a single platform, which can be seamlessly integrated into the existing virtualized environment at the college.

With complete visibility of devices accessing the network, and the health and security posture of AP’s, HiveManager not only reduces the demands on the IT team’s operational resources, but enables quick, central remediation of APs to minimise any disruption to learning.

With two new accommodation buildings due to open, Somerville, for the first time in its history, will be able to house nearly all undergraduates throughout their course. Importantly, with no controller, and its per-AP licensing, Aerohive’s WLAN solution enables Somerville to quickly and easily extend Wi-Fi connectivity to new areas of the college without cost or technical constraints.