Where Do EU Universities Host Their Websites?

image of European map

Collecting and using data to optimise digital presences

To gather the data for our last article about the content management systems EU universities use, we scanned 2,400 websites. As we examined each site we gathered data about underlying technologies, page content, quality and structure and the social media networks being used. All to build a more comprehensive picture of current higher education web and digital marketing practices.

As data and applications migrate to the “cloud”, we wanted to understand how the EU’s tertiary education institutions have responded in hosting their websites. Our scanning process uses IP address look-ups to identify servers, associated hosting providers and their estimated location.

We determine hosting arrangement locations as follows. First, we find a website’s IP address. Then, using a GeoIP look up, we determine the entity associated with that IP address, which in turn provides a location.

In some cases, this process identifies an academic network or infrastructure provider, such as the UK's JISC. When a GeoIP look up resolves to JISC (or its equivalent), we assume the underlying institution hosts the website “via" its JISC internet connection. Our assumption may simplify the exact situation, but we believe it is unlikely to result in any material mis-location of where tertiary education institutions host their main websites.

Where exactly is CMS data being stored?

The 2,350 institutions we extracted from the European Tertiary Education Register (ETER) database use 500 different hosting suppliers: a mix of commercial external hosting vendors, in-country academic institution network providers and on-campus hosting.

For concision we’ve limited this article’s coverage to the six largest markets (Germany, France, Poland, Italy, the UK and Portugal) in terms of number of institutions. If you want data for other EU countries, please be in touch.

We’ve summarized the data for these countries in Table 1. The table should be read as follows. Each column shows the country in which higher education institutions are located. At the bottom of the column is the total number of institutions. For example, Germany has 367 tertiary education institutions. Each row shows the location of the servers hosting the main website for each institution. For example, 361 German institutions host their main website on servers located in Germany and a total of 380 EU post-secondary institutions host main websites on servers located in Germany.

Higher Education Institution Country
DE Flag

Germany

FR Flag

France

PL Flag

Poland

IT Flag

Italy

GB Flag

UK

PT Flag

Portugal

Total Hosted In Country
Country Where Hosted
Germany 361 4 5 9 1 380
France 336 2 9 3 350
Poland 1 234 235
Italy 2 171 2 175
United Kingdom 2 123 1 126
Portugal 81 81
United States 3 4 2 10 23 5 47
Ireland 2 3 1 7 15 28
Netherlands 4 2 1 1 8
Sweden 5 5
Switzerland 4 4
Finland 1 1 2
Bulgaria 1 1
Spain 1 1
Totals 367 359 247 215 162 93 1,443
Table 1: Column headings show countries in which higher education institutions are located. Rows show the location of the web servers.
In other words, Germany has 367 tertiary education institutions [1] and 361 of the servers hosting the main websites are located in Germany.

Academic network infrastructure vs commercial suppliers

As Table 1 shows the majority of main university website hosting takes place in-country. And, with the exception of Poland, hosting mainly takes place with specialist higher education data networks.

  • Germany – DFN (Deutsches Forschungsnetz - German Research Network)
  • France - RENATER (Réseau national de télécommunications pour la technologie, l'enseignement et la recherche - National telecommunications network for Technology, Education and Research)
  • Italy – Consortium GARR (Gruppo per l'Armonizzazione delle Reti della Ricerca - Group for Harmonisation of Research Networks)
  • Portugal – FCT(Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia - Foundation for Science and Technology)
  • United Kingdom – JISC (formerly: Joint Information Systems Committee)

Polish tertiary education institutions host their main websites through a combination of commercial hosting providers (most prominently: home.pl and nazwa.pl), academic institutions and national network infrastructure providers (for example: CYFRONET).

Domestic over international: EU over non-EU

Post-secondary institutions in Germany, France, Poland and Portugal overwhelmingly (>87%) host in country, with only Italy (79.5%) and the UK (75.9%) dropping below 80% domestic hosting. The 39 UK institutions for which their server location is outside the UK use a mix of open-source and commercial content management system, with two of the commercial CMSs being largely hosted in the US or Ireland.

Overall, only 3% of the 1,443 institutions located in the six largest higher education markets have opted to host their main websites outside the EU.

What about all the other websites institutions own?

In this article we summarise the results of scanning and assessing 2,400 main websites belonging to higher education institutions across the European Union.

Many institutions, in turn, have their own internal networks of independently managed websites, sub-sites and microsites. And, the same diverse hosting approaches are mirrored across campuses. A mix of well documented internal and external hosting arrangements and others where former employees or external agencies set up the hosting arrangements.

An accurate inventory of servers, content management systems, hosting arrangements and other key data addresses legacy technology, security and website performance and content quality issues. We’d be happy to discuss how to run an audit and collect data to identify technology mis-matches, opportunities to upgrade or more cost effective alternatives.

Data as of September 2019

[1] Note: The ETER database includes 367 German tertiary education institutions for the academic year 2016/2017 and it is this number that has been included in our analysis. There are a number of additional tertiary education institutions present in Germany that are not included in the ETER database.

 

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