Microsoft licensing changes

Monday 20 July 2020

You might have seen online in the last few months that Microsoft have implemented a new licensing model, moving away from the familiar ‘Office 365’ to Microsoft 365’. 

We wanted to let you know what the changes mean for staff and students here at the University of St Andrews – as our Microsoft licensing contract was recently up for renewal. 

The old licensing model: ‘Office 365’

Office 365 had the following options available to us: A1, A1 ProPlus, A3 and A5, which gave different levels of access to different tools.

In the past, we opted for A1 ProPlus. This is a basic license which gives staff and students Microsoft applications, like Outlook, OneDrive for Business and Teams. The ‘ProPlus’ part meant that you could also download a free copy of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) on up to five of your personal devices.

We never needed to buy other licenses because A1 ProPlus had everything we needed.  In recent months, we have transitioned staff who are moving to Walter Bower House to a different license in order to provision Skype for Business telephony for them.

The new licensing model: ‘Microsoft 365’

There are three main changes with the new licensing model:

1.      Office 365 is now called Microsoft 365

Probably the most obvious change is the name of the license. We are now ‘Microsoft 365’ users rather than ‘Office 365’ users. More of a behavioural change for IT staff and other University staff who promote the tools. This means our Office 365 user community will likely be updated to the Microsoft 365 user community, along with references found on our website and blog moving forwards.

If you have materials referring to Office 365, don’t worry about updating them straight away. If you look online at (previously, there are still references to Office 365 that even Microsoft are still to change.

2.      The price has gone up

Prices obviously go up by some percentage every year. Since we renew our licenses every four years, we tend to feel the hit a bit more. A1 is free; we only paid for the ProPlus element (the bit that gave you free Microsoft Office).

A3 and A5 license prices increased by 33%-46%. One A3 license now costs around £40 per year; A5 is around £85 per year.

Without going into too much detail, the way Microsoft ask us to count our staff has changed too. The impact of the change means that we need to purchase more licenses than we did before.

On top of licensing, we also now need to pay for additional things like server access which costs over £150,000 a year.

3.      No more ProPlus (free Microsoft Office)

Microsoft have retired the option to give A1 ProPlus, which was what we have been using in the main. Instead, we can now provide:

  • A1 with no option to download Microsoft Office;
  • A3 or A5 which has this feature included anyway

Microsoft’s suggestion is to give any staff member that uses Microsoft products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) as part of their role an A3 or A5 license. At the University, this would be teaching and research staff and professional services staff and school administrators.

If a staff member doesn’t regularly need to access Microsoft products or have their own university issued device, they’ll most likely been allocated an A1 license.   Staff who will be issued an A1 license have been contacted about the change.  They can still access the Microsoft desktop applications on University pc. Find out where all the computer classrooms are located on the University map.  These staff can use the web-based version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint via the Microsoft Office portal when needed, however won’t be able to download free copies of Office to their personal devices.   

Everyone will continue have access to Teams. 

To use the web-based versions of Microsoft Office:

  1. Sign in to with your University credentials via the web;
  2. You’ll see a list of available applications on the left, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  3. Select the programme you want to use. Files created are automatically stored in OneDrive for Business. 

The web versions are very similar to the desktop applications.  If you can’t find the feature you’re looking for, search Microsoft Office help and training 

What this means going forward (from 31st July 2020)

For staff

  • Those in non-pc based roles will use Office Online rather than download Microsoft Office to their personal devices.
  • Academic, research and administrative and professional services staff who were previously on A1 ProPlus will now be on a new license, which comes with a few benefits like double mailbox storage and extra security features. However, it’s unlikely you’ll notice these at all.
  • If you’re a line manager and a new start is due to begin employment in your team, we may be in touch to gauge whether they’ll be using a computer or Microsoft products as part of their role. This will help us allocate the correct license.

For students

Nothing changes for students.

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