Lancaster University is aiming to improve its learning and research environment with a new collaborative working and unified communications infrastructure.

The new infrastructure includes video conferencing facilities for all the university's 18,500 students, staff and researchers, and will support Lancaster's growing overseas student-base.

Lancaster University is ranked in the top one percent of universities in the world. It said its previous telephony infrastructure, consisting of three separate systems, had "become increasingly difficult for IT to manage" and the aging hardware wasn't providing the "always-on" communication it needed to operate as a world-class institution.

Ian Anderson, networking group leader, headed up the project at Lancaster University. He said: "Multi-institutional collaboration on research projects is becoming increasingly central to the university.

"Coupled with our large base of students now working overseas, this meant we needed an infrastructure that would enable users to communicate and share information more efficiently regardless of location or time zone."

Lancaster also wanted collaborative and unified communications (UC) to aid its remote and flexible working offering to staff and students.

The university brought in systems integrator Logicalis to deploy a Cisco UC platform. The system includes a core telephony system as well as a Cisco UC platform consisting of voicemail and unified messaging on desk and smartphone soft clients, and web video conferencing.

Anderson said the Cisco Jabber application will be available to all staff and postgraduate students as a soft client on smart devices, to enable round the clock instant messaging and presence, as well as voice and video telephony from anywhere, on any device.

"Getting this in place will be particularly key for post-graduates who often require a lot of mentorship from staff members, at all hours of the day. This will enable them to collaborate more effectively," said Anderson.

"As we move forward, IM (instant messaging) will become the norm for quick questions rather than email, reducing inbox overload. And for quick meetings, desktop video will replace the requirement to travel the length of campus and book meeting rooms," he said.

For researchers, video and desktop sharing for collaboration on papers and interacting with academic partners from across the globe will reduce the need to travel.

Last year Lancaster University was among eight universities to receive £50,000 from GCHQ to help the spying organisation's cyber security programme.