Universities around the world receive free Windows and Office licenses from Microsoft for their students and faculty.

But what is behind this generous donation, and why is Microsoft willing to give away its products to universities?

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this practice and its implications.

Reasons for license donation.

1. Tax deductions

One of the main reasons Microsoft donates licenses to universities is to obtain tax deductions. When Microsoft donates licenses to universities, it can deduct the full value of the licenses on its tax returns. This means that the company can save a significant amount of money in taxes, which in turn allows it to increase its profits.

The conditions and benefits may vary by country but in the vast majority of cases they are not negligible.

2. Positive publicity

Another reason Microsoft donates licenses to universities is the positive publicity it gets. By giving away its products to universities, Microsoft positions itself as a “generous” and “committed to education” company.

This positive image can be very valuable to the company, especially in a world where corporate social responsibility is increasingly important.

3. Mind share and customer loyalty

One of the most important reasons why Microsoft donates licenses to universities is the possibility of acquiring “mind share” and customer loyalty.

When students and faculty use Windows and Office during their college years, they are more likely to continue using these products in the future. This means that Microsoft can build loyalty among an entire generation of users and increase its customer base.

4. Competition with Free/Libre software

Finally, another reason Microsoft donates licenses to universities is to compete with Free/Libre software. Free/Libre software, such as GNU/Linux and OpenOffice, is a free, high-quality alternative to Windows and Office.

By donating licenses to universities, Microsoft can slow down the adoption of open source software and maintain its dominant position in the software market.

Implications of license donations

1. Dependence on Microsoft

One of the main implications of license donations is dependence on Microsoft. When universities depend on Windows and Office for their day-to-day operations, they become “hostage” to Microsoft.

If the company decides to raise prices or change its policies, universities may be forced to make costly and complicated changes.

2. Constraints on innovation

Another implication of license donations is the limitation on innovation. When universities use Windows and Office, they are limited to the functionalities offered by these products.

This can prevent universities from designing, exploring and adopting new technologies and solutions that are better adapted to their realities and the countries to which they belong.

3. Ethical issues

Finally, there are some ethical issues that deserve consideration. Microsoft’s donation of licenses may be seen as a form of covert marketing, as the company is promoting its products to a captive audience. In addition, license donation may perpetuate the digital divide, as universities that cannot afford to purchase Microsoft licenses may be left behind in terms of technology.


Although the donation of software by large private software companies may appear to be a positive relationship in the first instance, they generate in the long term a relationship of total dependence on companies, generally located in foreign countries, with mainly commercial exploitation objectives and related to the goals of education.

Cover photo: Stephen Edgar, CC.