Foundation of a cashless campus
With a history dating back to 1824, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is the largest campus-based undergraduate university in the UK with a total student population of more than 37,000. With campuses in Manchester and Crewe, MMU was awarded university status in 1992 and is now one of the most extensive education centres in Europe. In recent years the University’s ‘2020 Vision’ has provided a catalyst for strategic development, a key stream of which focused on improving student experience and increasing student retention.
Around 2,400 students are eligible to receive MMU’s Student Support Package. This package is means tested and provides support to the value of £4,000 (£3,000 in year one and £1,000 in year two) to full-time undergraduate home students paying the higher rate of fee, with a household income up to and including £25,000pa. As one of three specific funding elements from which students can choose, this financial support is paid in two instalments in October and January. Previously, bursary payments were made in cash, direct to students with little control as to where spending was taking place.
A new Higher Education environment from 2012/2013 brought new challenges and opportunities. In addition, new OFFA guidelines included a focus on providing a better student experience, targeted and more effective expenditure; and improved student retention. As a result MMU decided that a more focused support package was required.
Moving away from cash-based payments
First things first – Create a wish-list
Initial requirements for the Card
- could be easily bulk loaded with funds by MMU
- could be used to pay for selected goods and services across campus (including the Students Union and Blackwell’s physical and online stores) using PDQ terminals and EPoS tills
- could be used to pay for tuition fees, accommodation, printing and other online goods and services
- could be topped up online by students and parents
Development and deployment
The team from MMU and Savvy worked together to develop a functional specification and requirements for the Met Card, how it could be used and where, how transactions would be processed, how the support funds could be bulk-loaded to cards and how parents could pay funds onto the cards of their children studying at MMU.
MMU’s Project Manager commented “We established a very good relationship with Savvy and the other partners on this project from the outset – we were confident that, despite the usual hurdles of technology projects, together we could make the Met Card a great success”.
It was decided early in the project that payments would be accepted in various locations and outlets across MMU’s campus via a mix of existing and new Barclaycard PDQ terminals and new EPoS tills that were in the process of being deployed during 2012. As part of the project, MMU’s terminals and tills were integrated with STORE24, Savvy’s technology platform to facilitate those payments.
In addition, three dedicated Barclaycard PDQ terminals were deployed into Blackwell’s shop and three into the Students Union, to allow redemption of Met Cards in those locations. In order for students to spend the funds on their Met Cards, MMU had to be able to easily and securely load funds onto those cards.
To facilitate this, MMU integrated its finance systems with STORE24. Each card was personalised by Savvy with student name, student number and photo, all supplied by MMU in a secure fashion. In addition, a page was developed on MMU’s website that allowed parents and students to load funds onto a Met Card using a credit or debit card, a service that allowed parents to better manage how their children were spending their allowance.
Launch of the Met Card
Met Card launched for the 2012/13 academic year with almost 6,500 personalised cards created and distributed to students. To incentivise students to use their cards and to help kick-start this initiative, a welcome credit of £20 was automatically loaded to all cards upon activation. And it has been successful. Within six weeks of the start of the 2012 academic year, 75% of the cards issued had been used at least once and every point of sale around the University had transacted, highlighting how the card is meeting a key objective of keeping funds on campus. Additionally, there has been positive feedback from students and MMU staff alike and, as a result, the team is already thinking about how they can expand the functionality and reach of the programme to bring more benefits to more students in the future. Said Joan Shanks,”We are very pleased that a project we have wanted for many years only took a few months to implement. Having dedicated external support from Savvy and Barclaycard along with the MMU team made the project a success, ensuring that it was implemented on time with relatively low resource/cost.”
Vice- Chancellor, MMU said “The introduction of the MMU Met Card has transformed behaviour, with benefits to the University which go way beyond the financial. There can be no doubt that when fully implemented, across all years and all modes of study, the Met Card will provide greater financial stability for students, greater predictability for a range of University services and a unique way of monitoring student engagement. We are convinced it will also have a positive impact on student satisfaction.”