Award-winning UnionCloud enhances NUS services

Arrk Group has helped the National Union of Students, a non-for-profit organisation, enhance its student union membership experience with the development and launch of UnionCloud, its award-winning cloud-based membership management platform.

The digital platform, awarded The Times’ Higher Education Awards ICT Initiative of the Year in 2013, provides all the functions a student union requires to operate, such as online shopping, event management, ticketing, voting, advice, job shops, content management system, analytics and clubs/societies management.

What sets NUS UnionCloud apart is that it allows all this to be done over one single platform in a manner that is attractive and engaging.


The National Union of Students (NUS) is confederation of over 600 students unions, accounting for 95 percent of all higher education and further education unions in the UK. A not-for-profit organisation it exists to promote, defend and extend the rights of students by providing a collective voice for the student movement as well as delivering a range of services to its diverse member unions.

A confederation of over 600 student unions

A not-for-profit organisation

Promotes, defends and extends the rights of students

A collective voice for the student movement


The NUS was losing the ability to serve its member unions due to ageing and dispersed IT systems. Furthermore, it was coming under increasing competition from external commercial providers capable of offering alternative digital platforms and services. These dual issues were having an adverse effect on usage and revenue, which in turn meant that less money was remaining within the student movement. NUS has not-for-profit status, with profits ploughed back into the student movement.

Following a detailed consultation period, NUS opted for a fully integrated digital membership platform. The cloud-based platform had to become the solution of choice for student unions, by providing a cost effective, easy-to-access and flexible platform for their day-to-day operations. In the face of increasing competition from alternative providers, a well designed and architected solution that met all of NUS’s key criteria needed to be delivered quickly and in a high quality manner, on a critical path determined by the academic year.

Losing the ability to serve its member unions due to ageing and dispersed IT systems

External commercial providers increasing competition

The student movement was losing money

A fully integrated digital membership platform was required


The solution incorporates a highly flexible, modular design which allows a diverse range of student unions a customised deployment, yet still retain all the advantages of having a large scale, centrally-managed cloud-based system. No two deployments need to be the same, with student unions able to incorporate their own branding and colour schemes, as well as select from a variety of feature modules.

The digital platform utilises a combination of bespoke and off-the-shelf components, using best-of-breed technology stack and open source elements which ensures that UnionCloud is built upon rock solid foundations. These core elements are crucial in ensuring that UnionCloud is able to grow robustly and securely as more unions sign up to the service.

Arrk Group and NUS team members work closely to develop and support the UnionCloud platform and infrastructure. Agile development practices have been used to quickly showcase and build working software. UnionCloud was developed using Agile/Scrum-based framework and built using technologies such as Ruby on Rails, Postgres, Redis and Resque.

Flexible, cloud-based 'union website in a box' solution

Combines open source and bespoke development

Developed using a hybrid Agile scrum-based methodology

Used technologies such as Ruby on Rails, Postgres, Redis and Resque


Recognised as the ICT Initiative of the Year at The Times’ Higher Education Awards 2013, a key factor in the success of the project was the collaborative partnership model. Arrk Group worked closely with NUS to rapidly understand and shape programme requirements.

The successful deployment of UnionCloud has ensured that generated revenues are driven back into student movement, with effective programme management ensuring a swift route to market which delivers on UnionCloud’s potential.

By utilising hybrid Agile delivery methods, a first for NUS, a distributed team of over 30 people successfully delivered the platform under the strict deadlines imposed by the academic year. This innovative approach was critical in streamlining the process of understanding and elaborating requirements, testing out technologies and developing the solution from day one. This helped to maximise communication and transparency, while reducing bottlenecks and potential delays.

ICT Initiative of the Year at The Times' Higher Education Awards 2013

Successful and rapid deployment based on academic year


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