19 December 2019 - Highlights from 2019

As you will know, 2019 has been a busy year for ucisa, during which we have conceived, planned and implemented a sustained and significant organisational change and development programme, in order to deliver against the strategic plan agreed by our membership.

The change that was in the air was reflected in this year’s Leadership Conference which focussed on effecting positive cultural change and the role our people play in cutting edge Service Delivery. This year’s Conference marked a step change in our approach and has laid the foundation for ambitious plans for 2020 and beyond. March also saw us formally welcome the former London Metropolitan Network into ucisa as our new London Group and we were joined by HEIDS, Higher Education Information Directors Scotland.  

May saw me take up the new role as CEO of ucisa, augmenting our leadership capacity in order to deliver the strategic and organisational change set out in our five-year strategic plan.  This coincided with the announcement of our Bursary awards for 2019/20 with 23 members receiving funding, the highest number to date following a record number of applications. It has been a real pleasure to see the blogs and reports each Bursary winner has produced, the insights they are sharing with the sector and to see the contribution to their personal development that the funding has enabled.

In June our VLE Review toolkit was launched, the Digital Capabilities survey report was presented at our Spotlight on Digital Capabilities Conference and the ucisa conference season began in earnest with a full suite of vibrant and thought- provoking conferences delivered by our hardworking conference committees throughout the year, culminating in  a sell-out CISG-PCMG Conference last month.  These events would not be possible without the dedication of our overarching group committees and the specific work of each conference committee. I would like to thank all those who have served on a ucisa committee this year for the huge contribution that you make to our organisation. It is your work that makes our ambition to connect, share and transform, a reality for all our members and we are truly grateful to you all. 

July brought a focus on Digital Accessibility and helping members prepare for the new Digital Accessibility Legislation which was to come into force in September. We published our first Directors’ Cut briefing on the new legislation and held our first Rapid Response Event in September thanks to the dedication and commitment of the Digital Education Group Chair, Fiona Strawbridge.  It is never easy being the first to deliver new membership initiatives and we owe Fiona our thanks for  being the trail blazer who helped us to launch these two new communications platforms which we hope will become a regular, if ad hoc , feature in our membership services over the next few years .

Over the summer, we produced guidance for members when responding to FOI requests relating to cyber security, represented members at Data Futures consultation events and our Approaches in Business Continuity resource formed the basis of a Brexit preparedness piece in WonkHE.   

We were delighted to see the Technology Enhanced Learning survey receive due recognition in the research category at the ALT Conference in the autumn, a fitting accolade for the hard work that the TEL survey team within the Digital Education Group put in for our collective benefit.

Since September much of our time has been focussed on delivering the major organisational change programme we announced that month which has seen ucisa's small central administration team relocating from the University of Oxford premises to new flexible workspace within Lumen House on the nearby Harwell Science and Technology Campus – placing us at the heart of UK technology research and innovation.  

Central administration for ucisa had historically been provided by the University of Oxford under a service contract. Transfer to direct administrative control by ucisa followed discussions with Oxford and mutual agreement that Oxford could no longer provide the service levels required to deliver ucisa's ambitions to expand membership services in support of the expert digital community underpinning digital transformation in education.  

The announcement also brought the sad news that our Executive Director Peter Tinson had decided that the ending of the contract with Oxford was also the appropriate juncture for him to stand down. It was wonderful to have an appropriate opportunity to mark his departure and express our thanks to him for the significant contribution he made over 14 years with ucisa at the CISG-PCMG Conference Dinner last month.

Our relocation and full ucisa ownership of day-to-day business activities took place on December 1st and marks the latest milestone in our strategy of reshaping ucisa service provision around the current and future digital challenges and opportunities facing member institutions – including support for all aspects of digital expertise related to the delivery of an exceptional student experience. 

As we now look towards 2020, we are firm in our belief that direct ucisa control of administrative support will provide us with far greater agility in offering unique opportunities for members to connect, share expertise and transform digital approaches, as well as enhancing our ability to work with digital suppliers to HE and FE in highlighting product needs.

Two particularly significant achievements will also enhance our ability to serve members interests more effectively in the coming year. These are the much-awaited launch of our new website and the implementation of our own Office 365 Tenancy which will allow the space for our members to work collaboratively and effectively.  The website now provides a fitting window to showcase the work that our Groups and Communities undertake on behalf of the wider membership and we look forward to watching how the groups enrich this platform over the coming year.

I am particularly proud of the fact that we have been able to maintain full business and service continuity during this period of significant change and am sure you would join me in thanking the ucisa staff team for their hard work and dedication in bringing this about.  

Here at Team ucisa HQ we are all excited to begin our next chapter in 2020 and to all the challenges that it will doubtless bring to our sector and your teams. We look forward to working with you and supporting you throughout the year ahead.