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Why the UK's UCAS turned to APIs to link up the admissions process for millions of students

Scott Carey | July 31, 2017
The UK's university admissions service is modernising its technology, turning to cloud, APIs and MuleSoft's integrations platform.


Why MuleSoft?

Harper said MuleSoft was a natural choice for the organisation as it transitions to being cloud-first. "We identified an architecture which required integration and was to be API led, and because we are cloud-centric it was a logical step for us to use MuleSoft," he said.

Flexibility is key for UCAS as it deals with defined seasonal peaks of activity around applying for higher education. In 2016 it handled almost three million applications, with 535,000 students securing places at one of over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

Where MuleSoft really helps UCAS is in keeping its legacy systems operational while it makes this transition. "We knew we had a legacy estate to sustain with the operational job around results day that couldn't be compromised.

"Equally we couldn't make many changes to those environments, that weren't flexible or robust...MuleSoft bridged the gap to wrap and integrate old services, and decouple new services, to kill two birds with one stone."

This new architecture will also significantly reduce the cost of change within UCAS. Before if it wanted to change something on the front-end, like a simple postcode lookup, it would have to be replicated across five systems. Now any changes will automatically permeate across services.

This transformation has meant a change in staffing and skills within the organisation. "Upskilling people and getting experienced talent around the MuleSoft platform is a challenge for us," Woodfield admits.

Harper added: "APIs weren't a new thing to us, and the development teams wanted to go in that direction anyway. The standardisation of the way we work now was the challenge.

"Part of this transformation means time and effort spent to ensure the quality of people we recruited was high, with modern views on how cloud, digital systems should work."


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