Why Drupal is the Right Fit for Higher Ed


Drupal is solving the issue of standardization and disparate content management systems. Here’s why:

 Systems integration - Drupal offers a variety of web services capabilities in the Services, View Data Export, RESTful Web Services, and Web Service Client modules. Drupal can be configured as a services end-point (receiving calls and returning data to 3rd party systems) or configured to call other services (receiving data from applications such as event management systems). For institutions that publish native mobile apps, these web services capabilities can seamlessly provide content to native apps. Some institutions use Drupal as the master content source in their mobile apps.

 User account management - Web user management at institutions can be complex, often involving duplicate records when managing users across multiple websites and systems. Drupal can tie into user database systems like Microsoft’s Active Directory or LDAP using the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) module. Or, the CAS module can be used to make Drupal itself the master database for user records.


Multi-site - Drupal offers several approaches for configuring on Drupal installation to run many websites. The traditional multi-site approach is the most flexible, providing the ability to store content for each website in different databases and/or sharing MySQL tables like Drupal’s user table. If a requirement is to share content across multiple websites, another approach is to use the Domain Access module, which allows sharing of users, content, and configuration settings between sites. 

Mobile responsive user interface - Drupal 8 will release with responsive themes out-of-the-box, offering mobile compatibility without the need to install a new theme. This is especially helpful for mobile content administration.

Intranet - Building a college or department’s Intranet using Drupal reduces the talent overhead required to manage more than one web technology for both website and Intranet. You can read more about Drupal as an Intranet solution in an article I wrote last year.


508 accessibility - Being Section 508 Compliant is a requirement at most institutions. These modules provide 508 Compliant features: Text Size for adjusting text and Accessibility for validating a site’s accessibility compliance. Alt-text for image handling is available in out-of-the-box.

Content authoring and publishing workflow - Some departments don’t require a lot of checks and balances for curating and publishing content, but for those that do, modules like Workbench suite and Revisioning feature highly configurable publishing workflows.

Social and email marketing - Built on the premise of being a social collaboration tool, Drupal extends the “community” concept by offering capabilities for engagement both inside and outside of the CMS. Institutions managing tools like phpBB have the option to migrate forums to Drupal. Furthermore, Drupal excels at integrating with social media and email marketing services. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest modules are available from the community. Email marketing tools like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Pardot integrate tightly with Drupal.

Flexibility - Departments have different communication needs throughout a campus, dictated by their size and field of study. What works for the business school may not work for the science school.

No licensing fees - Proprietary CMS tools like OmniUpdate pigeonhole institutions into annual licensing contracts while offering limited feature options. Drupal’s open source licensing gives institutions a less costly technology solution that offers hundreds of feature possibilities typically not available in most other CMS’s.

Drupal’s modular architecture and customization capability make it a very viable option for solving issues around divergent web technologies that plague many higher ed institutions. Two years ago, Drupal was being adopted by over 70% of the top 100 universities: institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Cal Berkeley. Other notable institutions such as University of North Carolina and Cornell have followed suit. The number Institutions that want to lay a web technology foundation that provides enough options to meet the needs of departments and colleges campus-wide should take a closer look at Drupal.