College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Guidance on recommended student technology

The move to hybrid teaching, where you receive your teaching via on-campus and digital learning, likely means you have some questions regarding the type of technology you might need to ensure you get the best possible teaching experience, wherever you are in the world.

girl with laptop

In order to have the best experience, you will need to bring a laptop. If you don't already have one this will help guide you to the right device.

Our advice is based on recommendations if you are purchasing a new device, rather than the level of technology we expect a student to have access to.

You may well find ways of being able to engage with our services with lower-cost devices. Please do not feel obliged to re-purchase new kit as it is likely that your current device will be sufficient. 

Programme-specific guidance 

It is important to note that different disciplines will have different requirements. Recommendations need to be geared towards the right tool for the job.

Your School will contact you directly if there are any requirements for your programme of study that are different to those set out here.

We don’t mind if you bring a Windows or Apple laptop, but you should ensure it's running Windows 10 or Mac OS Catalina. 

You should avoid a Chromebook device as we find that these are generally unable to run some of the software that might be needed for your programme.

It is generally a good idea to consider a mid-range model with a good amount of memory (RAM) and plenty of USB sockets (we recommend at least two).

We have a suggested specification to look out for below which will also give the laptop longevity, but you should try and get the best you can within your budget.  

Our suggested specifications

  • An Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor

  • 8Gb of memory (often referred to as RAM and different to hard-disk storage)

  • A built-in webcam and microphone so you can participate in live synchronous digital teaching 

  • Local hard disk storage of at least 256Gb using what’s called solid state disk storage or SSD if possible

  • Look for a good capacity battery that will give you ideally a whole day’s usage

  • Look for a display that’s large enough to be comfortable using often, but not too large that it makes the device difficult to carry as you’ll almost certainly find you need to bring your laptop with you each day when you return to campus.

  • Ideally a warranty that covers the full time you are studying at the University. Then you can be certain that any problems later can be fixed by the manufacturer without further expense.

We estimate that a computer with the above specification would cost about £550 to buy new but you shouldn’t feel required to spend this much.

It may be possible to find a good deal on a refurbished unit for a lower cost. A good independent site which may help guide you is below. 

 

What are the best student laptops for every budget? (The Guardian, 22 August 2020)

While the University does not offer direct purchasing routes for technology, we will signpost discounts available to students, for example through manufacturer sites such as HP, Dell, Lenovo or student discount sites such as UniDays. 

 

Additional accessories  

Make sure you bring all the adapters and power supplies you need and make sure you have plenty of chargers and phone cables.

Here’s a short checklist:

  • Mobile phone cables and chargers 
  • An electrical extension cable which are handier than you might imagine  

  • A long, wired network (ethernet) cable as a more reliable alternative to wireless if your laptop has an Ethernet port 

  • Some electrical adapters if you are travelling from outside the UK.

The University accommodation services' advice on suitable electrical adapters (Electrical safety information, PDF)

Connectivity 

When you are on campus, there is good Wi-Fi connectivity and access across the University estate, including in University halls of residence using the Wi-Fi network called Eduroam. Eduroam also gives you free access to Wi-Fi networks of thousands of Universities across the world.

You can use the University Eduroam app to configure your laptop and phone in advance of arriving on campus. 

Configure Eduroam Wi-Fi on your device

Physical distancing means the number of open access computers in the University has had to be reduced to around a third of our normal capacity. 

We expect that the majority of students will be required to access content using their personal laptop from other locations.

Broadband 

Broadband connectivity requirements for learning will be determined by the streaming services used to access University content. We expect that it will be no greater than the connectivity requirements of standard video streaming services such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

We recommend that you choose a provider that can supply a download speed of at least 5Mb/s. Your broadband provider will be able to help you if you are unsure what this means. Remember that sharing a connection with others in the same household will mean you will need a faster broadband speed. 

 

Wi-Fi signal strength can also affect connection speeds. You may find that moving closer to the router or using a network cable as suggested above will give better results.

You can test your broadband speed using our own speed test service.

Conduct a speed test

Mobile data and data usage 

Typically, a 4G connection from a mobile phone will provide minimum connectivity requirements, but connection speed is variable depending on location and time of day/usage.   

 

You should be aware of what is included by your mobile provider; it’s very easy to run up a large bill when using mobile data. In some cases, your connection may simply stop, meaning you are unable to access your learning, or you may face additional, unexpected charges.

If you want to buy a mobile data service, we recommend that you look for an unlimited data plan which may be a bit more expensive but won’t run out at inconvenient times. Any mobile phone shop should be able to help you with this. 

Software

You don’t need to worry about purchasing any office software as the University gives you the ability to download the latest version of Microsoft Office for free and you can do this before you come to University. 

Latest Microsoft Office

The University also gives you access to 1Tb of online storage for you to use for all your data through OneDrive. 

OneDrive for Business

The University also gives you access to Last Pass software, which functions as a useful way to manage multiple passwords, free of charge.

LastPass

Your School will let you know if there are any software packages needed specifically for your course and will provide guidance on how to download or access it, usually using the University Remote Applications service.

Guide to accessing remote software

Student technology support

We also want to make you aware of the options available if you are struggling to obtain or use your own personal laptop or reliable broadband connection.

The University laptop loan service is free and available to all undergraduate and postgraduate students.

A student's laptop and coffee cup

Short-term loan (up to three days)

The short-term loan is for when your personal laptop or device is missing, being repaired, or unable to do a particular task.

The short-term loan is self-service.

Medium-term loan (up to two weeks)

The medium-term loan is for when your main laptop is missing, unable to complete a longer task or assignment, or study for exams.

The medium-term loan is self-service.

Long-term loan (full semester or academic year)

Access to the long-term loan is based on needs and personal circumstances.

The long-term loan is not self-service: you will need to follow a simple application and qualification process.

Visit the laptop loan service website for more information on how to apply.

In addition to loan laptops, the University also has a number of loan mobile Wi-Fi units that make use of 4G data and create a local Wi-Fi hotspot.

Financial support

If you are experiencing unexpected financial difficulty, there are a number of resources at the University available to help based on your personal circumstances.

Get in touch if you are concerned about the financial implications of coming or returning to University.

Further information 

EdHelp is our student-facing support service and is available both online and at our Main Library, George Square, and the Murray Library, Kings Buildings.

Contact EdHelp for further information and help.