WordPress Single Sign-On for Universities

Universities love to use WordPress. The platform is an affordable and powerful way to build all the types of websites that are needed on a campus.

Yes, WordPress can build a complete homepage website for your university, with customizable features and powerful tools.

And yes, WordPress can be used by the ordinary staff on campus. The staff don’t need fancy code, or secret tricks. WordPress can be a simple website tool that makes it easy for university departments and organizations to create their own sites.

However, this flexibility can quickly become difficult to manage. Beyond the main homepage, Universities need dozens of other sites for departments, events, sports, marketing, and much more.

The RoleUp team has spent a lot of time working with universities and we’ve seen many massive networks on campuses. Some university networks have 1000’s of websites. Some university networks are so big that the poor IT staff had to build a search engine to find what sites were installed on campus!

So how can an overworked IT staff successfully manage all the sites that a university need? How can you keep track of the users who are logging in to 1000’s sites? Let’s look at some options.

Option #1. WordPress Multisite Networks for Universities

Multisite is a feature that’s available in the WordPress core. Multisite networks allow you to create and run a network of sites on a single WordPress installation.

Each WordPress site in your network can have its own users. Everything is controlled by a “Super Admin” user who is able to create new sites and and control which themes and plugins are made available.

Unfortunately, there are significant limitations to multisite networks, including these:

  • If your site or server is experiencing downtime, this impacts all the sites on the network. You really are running only one WordPress site.
  • Not all plugins and themes will work on a multisite network. And if they do work, they often don’t share settings or data so they need to be configured again for each new site.
  • Migrations are very complex because each site shares one database. Migrating one site off your network is very difficult.
  • You cannot truly separate users; each one will still have access to the entire network. Multisite works best for brochure sites without too many logged-in users.

If you want to use multisite simply because you can manage all your sites from a single dashboard, you can consider using a service like ManageWP or Watchful for the plugins, and RoleUp for the user management.

Option #2. Single Sign-On for Universities

Single Sign-On (SSO) is an option for WordPress. SSO allows you to use one login to access multiple sites in your WordPress network. There are SSO services available such as MiniOrange and alternatives. Your university may have an SSO option for accessing the campus services.

This means you can log in to all of your websites with one username and password.

But, this approach does have some drawbacks. We covered some disadvantages of SSO in this post. RoleUp’s approach presents an alternative to SSO. Here’s a comparison of the RoleUp approach to SSO

Single account for all sites (less secure)NoYes
Individual accounts for each site (more secure)YesYes
List all sites available to each adminYesNo
Requires separate pluginNoYes
Easily add admins to site(s)YesYes
Easily remove admins from site(s)YesYes
1-click setup and configurationYesNo
Privacy-first approachYesNo
Admin login dependent on 3rd-party serviceNoYes
Affected by firewalls and ad-blockingNoYes
Cost per userLowHigh

Option #3. Individual Websites With Unified User Management

If you don’t want to put every site into a single multisite network, and you don’t want to use a Single-Sign On service, then you should consider RoleUp.

For the longest time, controlling access to many WordPress sites was seriously bad. Have you ever tried to give a new staff member access to 100 sites? That’s why so many people looked to multisite or Single-Sign On services.

RoleUp is a hassle-free way to onboard and offboard users. With one click, you can add a user to your entire network, or revoke their access.

You can select the user role, email, password, and all the other key details for each account. And when it’s time to go, you can remove the users with just one click.

RoleUp is perfect for managing users across all the sites on a university campus. Each site can be an independent installation, but you can easily manage all the users.

For universities with existing sites, RoleUp can automatically import user accounts are synced from all your WordPress sites. RoleUp will group your accounts by email, making it easy to track which accounts are used by which person.

Whether you’re a large university with a massive faculty and student body, or a small campus just starting out – you can manage your website users using RoleUp. It’s hassle-free, with no limitations and no coding required.

Ready to get started?