Microsoft offers education sector Office 365 sweetener

school kids

Microsoft is giving the education sector a leg up into the cloud by offering free access to its Office 365 online productivity suite to existing Office licensees.

The offer is part of the software giant's Student Advantage programme, which is being ushered in on 1 December 2013 across the globe.

From this date, any educational institutions that already license Microsoft Office for use by their staff and faculties will be able to offer access to the Office 365 ProPlus edition to students at no extra cost.

We had three options to consider: continue using Google Apps, remove the cloud all together and move to an on-premise solution or move to Office 365 for Education.

Office 365 ProPlus features cloud-based versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher and Lync.

These applications can all be locally installed on five devices and are also available for students to use offline as well.

In a blog post, announcing the programme, Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education at Microsoft, said the offer means schools will have access to the same productivity tools as some Fortune 500 companies.

As a result, Microsoft hopes increasing access to the software will help prepare students for everyday working life.

"Students today need job readiness skills, not job training. And the technology industry can and should play a very important role in rebooting education to address this shift," he said.

"It is a remarkable time in the world of education...[and] it's clear that today's students the workforce of tomorrow must be prepared for the shifting landscape. And that landscape is increasingly technologically driven."

In related news, the vendor has also confirmed that Office 365 for Education has usurped Google Apps in the affections of Merseyside-based Birkenhead Sixth Form College.

The organisation originally began offering Google Apps to students in 2009, but users reportedly complained about formatting and compatibility issues.

John Paul Szkudlapski, IT and technical services manager at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, explained: "We had three options to consider: continue using Google Apps, remove the cloud all together and move to an on-premise solution or move to Office 365 for Education."

In the end, the college opted for the latter, primarily on compatibility and flexible working grounds.

"We were really pleased with the integration options available with Microsoft Office 365 for Education for our existing systems, and the ease in which we could make working outside the college possible," he said.

"The integration, in particular, provides our students and staff with a better experience and confidence in the services we provide."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.