Changes to Microsoft Licensing for Education may cost universities more

Manage and optimise the Education Qualified User (EQU) model in Microsoft 365 Education plans for real cost savings.

Transforming the student experience is a key aspiration for many universities: An all-encompassing digital vision with wide-ranging ideas, solutions and initiatives to provide innovative access to learning resources for students and staff as well as modern working and living environments.

Transformation in higher education, essentially, is no different to transformation in business in that, invariably, it will end up at the door of the IT department. IT and Operations decision makers must choose where to allocate budget and resource for the highest priority projects, and the more budget that is available, the more activities can be delivered. With the student experience continuously improving, the university in question can lead the way in enhancing the student experience.

Changes to Microsoft 365 Education Plans

Any challenges to university IT budgets are taken seriously, mitigating price rises where possible. One such challenge is a change to the way Microsoft class users in their Campus Agreement (now known as ‘EES’ – Enrolment for Education Solutions). This is already presenting universities with potentially significant costs.

With the move to Microsoft 365 Education plans, education customers are being asked to switch from the Full Time Employee (FTE) based counting model, which has been used for years, to the new Education Qualified User (EQU) model. This represents a huge shift for further and higher education organisations and could see the need for colleges and universities to procure thousands more paid for Microsoft licences.

What is an Education Qualified User?

The Microsoft definition of an Education Qualified User (EQU) is as follows:

“Education Qualified User” means an employee or contractor (except Students) who access or uses an Education Platform Product for the benefit of the Institution.

And as a reminder, an Education Platform Product entails:

Office 365 Pro Plus/A3/A5 and/or Windows A3/A5 and/or EM&S E3/35 or M365 A3/A5. Components of 0365 A3/A5 or EM&S E3/E5 are not Education Platform Products (except O365 Pro Plus)

For every 1,000 users that Phoenix help categorise as a light-worker, eligible for a free licence, the University will save up to £45,000.

Who qualifies as an EQU?

If a member of staff needs an application like Office to do their day to day job, they need to be counted as an EQU. The number of hours worked by a member of staff is no longer relevant, and visiting staff and contractors doing work on behalf of the University also need to be counted. Students don’t need to be counted as they are covered by Free of Charge Student Benefit Licences. Other staff who do not fit this description are classed as light workers by Microsoft.

Higher education organisations often manage users by recording the number of active mailboxes, number of active AD accounts, or by working with HR to ascertain the figures. This leaves uncertainty over the correct number of licences required, leading to the potential of a huge overspend on licensing.

Consider the average cost of £45 per licence: Incorrectly classing 1,000 light workers as EQUs in the new EQU model will cost a University £45,000 in Microsoft software licensing. Similarly, a typical university may leap from 6,000 FTEs in the current model to as many as 18,000 EQUs in the new model; potentially another huge increase in cost.

Minimising the Financial Impact of Microsoft’s new EQU Model

Correctly identifying which users across a university IT network are EQUs and which are light workers is key to managing this change of licensing. Furthermore, ensuring each user’s licence is right-sized to their requirements (rather than everybody having access to everything regardless of their need) clearly has cost benefits.

User profiling, an important pillar of effective Software Asset Management (SAM), will allow an organisation to analyse a user’s true requirements, identifying technologies required in the organisation based on each user’s job role. As well as this, organisations can undertake an exercise to determine the correct licence for each user, for example, conducting an A1 versus A3 and A5 licensing comparison to ensure all users have the most appropriate licence level.

Furthermore, longer term planning, establishing a three to six-year licensing strategy will allow an organisation to identify the most optimal path for both growth and decline in user numbers.

Optimisation Service for Microsoft Licensing in Education

Phoenix can deliver an Education Qualified User Optimisation Service that allows higher education organisations to isolate EQUs. This solves issues around the identification, management and licensing of these users, and ensures licences are right-sized between A1, A3 and A5 options. A Full Strategy Workbook, detailing the licensing requirements forecast with optimal strategy recommendations is provided for ongoing software licence optimisation.


Join Phoenix, and our partner License Dashboard, on our Education sector focused on-demand webinar to learn more about the EQU Optimisation Service and the range of technology options that can be used throughout FE & HE organisations to drive cost savings and efficiencies.

Veiw the on-demand version now

Alternatively, contact the Phoenix Team today to discuss your specific needs on 01904 562200, email [email protected] or fill in the form below:

Although every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the above article, Phoenix Software Ltd cannot be held responsible for any opinions or information provided therein and as such is not liable for any damages caused by a customer’s reliance upon this information.