Benefits of Drupal vs. Wordpress for Higher Education Institutions

In this post, we look at why an enterprise option, such as Drupal, is a better fit for higher education institutions.

Typically, universities support a number of departments that are responsible for creating and maintaining a significant level of content.  Drupal is considered to be a good fit for higher education institutions because it is equipped with powerful site-governance tools. In this post, we look at why an enterprise option such as Drupal is considered a better fit for educational institutions, taking into account the key areas to be considered when sourcing a platform, including the accessibility and personalization requirements of your digital platforms.

Drupal v. WordPress for EDUs

Currently, WordPress is perhaps the most well-known content-management option, with 60% of overall CMS market share.  However, a platform’s functionality, accessibility and security features are essential to understand when choosing a platform to meet the particular needs of educational institutions. The following sections highlight these features of Drupal as a best-in-class platform in a comparative review to WordPress. 

Governance and Permissions

With its high level of security and comprehensive site-governance tools, Drupal is considered a platform of choice for higher education sites that support a vast number of departments that are responsible for developing and maintaining a high level of content.  For example, within Drupal, it is relatively easy to set up a site that allows the admissions department to manage its own section, or for less expert users to require approval for changes they make. The permission system is highly flexible, allowing site administrators to customize the site workflow to suit any use case, while maintaining “rules of the road” so content editors don’t break the pages.

This helps to remove bottlenecks, speed up the process of site editing and ensure content editors are updating content, not design, and thus preserving brand integrity. 


Accessibility is high on the priority list for almost all higher education institutions for two reasons: these institutions want to ensure their sites are user-friendly and that their site achieves a high level of accessibility in line with compliance guidelines. Designed for  accessibility, Drupal 8 offers robust support with out of the box capabilities ( Additionally, Drupal distributions such as OpenEDU  provide a built-in accessibility checker, helping to ensure that issues can be discovered and addressed in real time, before going live.


Higher education organizations require a high level of security.  WordPress has a number of security protocols within its core offering. However, beyond this, users will also need to manage the security of all of the plugins that are employed. In addition, WordPress has faced a lot of security challenges over the years; its simplicity and popularity make it an apt target. Dries Buytaert, the inventor of Drupal, is also the founder of Acquia, which offers paid drupal services and freely continues to contribute important code to the Drupal community. Acquia is an active participant in the Drupal Security team and as such, the platform is built and optimized to keep Drupal security patches current and keep core network security in place to minimize risk.

The secure nature of Drupal is echoed by the fact that it is the CMS of choice for a number of government organizations, where security is of the highest priority.

WordPress and Automattic lack the security infrastructure that Acquia supports. As one example, this article explains how a design flaw in the WordPress permission system used by plugins allowed attackers to gain full control over a WordPress site. 

Support for Custom Content Types

Higher education sites frequently require custom content types, such as news, events and profiles. While WordPress has functionality for creating these custom types, Drupal’s content-structuring tools are more powerful and flexible and do not require coding.  

Moreover, Drupal has mature tools for creating and managing these custom content types. Another strong point is its robust taxonomy/tagging system, which allows content editors to relate content and expose it to search, among other features.

These tools can help improve the user experience and aid in content discovery. Additionally, for organizations that are seeking to further deepen relationships with users and go beyond “static” content types and relationships, Drupal also supports website personalization. 

Personalization allows higher education institutions to cater the interface to given personas or user types, helping the site “learn” what users do and do not want to see. Tools like Acquia Personalization help organizations to gather insights about users and to serve them relevant content that cuts out the noise. Since almost all higher ed groups share the challenge of balancing the needs of many user types, personalization is a powerful and effective way to create a customized experience for each user, deepening the relationship with users and decreasing friction. 

Multisite and Scalability

WordPress offers extremely limited multisite capabilities and as a result, many customers struggle to govern WP sites at scale. WordPress Multisite lacks both the flexibility to allow organizations to customize, theme and style each site as well as critical governance, permissioning and workflow capabilities. Acquia is the only leader in the Forrester Wave to achieve the highest possible score for multisite management and global governance (2018 Forrester Wave for WCM). Acquia allows you to manage many sites with just a single platform, providing digital teams with enhanced capability to build, update and centralize hundreds of Drupal sites and applications efficiently at a global scale. This will allow you and your team the freedom to meet market demand and accelerate the pace of your business.

Multilingual Functionality

International students are often a key audience for higher education. For parents who are less fluent in English, for example, multilingual capabilities can be a meaningful differentiator, helping them to evaluate the institution in their native language.  

While WordPress is capable of multilingual content, Drupal 8 offers greater depth and flexibility, including more comprehensive built-in capabilities.


Although a higher initial investment, Drupal is considered a best-in-class platform. 

In terms of monetary cost, WordPress often comes out as the less expensive initial option. However, when considering the value of security and the ability to personalize your digital presence, as well as the opportunity to serve current and future digital technologies, Drupal provides a longer-term value. 

Overall Value

WordPress lacks some of the tools needed in an enterprise CMS and tends to be a better fit as a blogging and creative landing-page tool.  It has a large number of plugins, but may struggle to meet enterprise business requirements, including personalization, DAM and journey orchestration. 

Organizations rarely use WordPress as a central strategic WCM as it lacks critical capabilities for customer engagement, mobility, multichannel and more.  Although Drupal will require more development and a higher level of initial investment, in the long term, the benefits greatly outweigh these considerations. The CMS will allow greater flexibility within your institution to support multiple sites and content providers.

Teams that have chosen WordPress for campaign and microsites may find themselves in a position where they can’t scale or govern hundreds of sites and applications. Acquia’s best-in-class platform provides security, scalability and flexibility to create personalized digital experiences at an enterprise level.

This blog post was created in partnership with ImageX as a part of a series to explore the benefits of Drupal in the higher education space.

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