16. Isolated institutions

‘Isolated institutions’ is an option for your entire Mahara site. It can be beneficial when you set up a large site for several organisations and need to adhere to privacy regulations that don’t allow people from one organisation to contact people from other organisations.

It is best turned on directly at the outset of setting up a site as a number of fundamental decisions are made for the site.

By turning on isolated institutions,

  • all institutions on the site are isolated

  • people from different institutions cannot

    • see each others’ profiles

    • share portfolios

    • join groups set up by non-institution members

    • send messages

    • become friends

  • only site administrators can contact everyone

  • people can still share portfolios publicly and via secret URL

Isolated institutions affect several areas in Mahara and automatically turn on or off certain functionality.

  1. Turn on isolated institutions for the site by adding the variable $cfg->isolatedinstitutions = true; to your config.php file.


    This setting is a config.php setting to prevent that it is changed accidentally in the site administration.

  2. Having turned on this setting,

    • being a member in multiple institutions is not possible

    • all self-registrations need to be confirmed by an institution or site administrator

    • public groups can only be created by site administrators

    • the ‘Show who’s online’ side block can only show institution members at maximum

    • profile pages are not available to all registered people

  3. The site administrator can turn on the site setting ‘See own groups only’ in Administration menu → Configure site → Site options → Group settings. This will allow regular institution members to only see groups in which they are a member and other people who are members in the same groups, restricting the contact they can have with others.


    Institution administrators and staff can still see everyone in the institution, and everyone can always see institution administrators and staff.

  4. Institution administrators decide in the institution settings whether the ‘Show who’s online’ side block shall be displayed with just the institution members or not.

  5. When an institution member gains access to a profile URL from another institution member, they cannot see the page at all and receive the ‘Access denied’ message, preventing them from even seeing the restricted profile as they should not be able to find out anything about a member of another institution.