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2008 Review of the year 



The following is a brief summary of what has been another busy year for the Association. A more formal annual report will follow and be presented at the AGM at the Management Conference in Liverpool in March.

Lobbying and representation

The lobbying and representation strand of activity has seen a significant increase in the past year. UCISA has responded to seven consultations in total this year from a variety sources and on topics including the proposals for the Research Excellence Framework, HEFCW’s procurement policy and options for legislation on peer to peer filesharing. Details of all the consultations are available at www.ucisa.ac.uk/members/consultations.aspx.

In addition to formal responses UCISA has represented the community on a number of working parties and steering groups. Over the course of the year we have been working with Universities UK in lobbying the UK Border Authority on the implementation of the points based immigration system for student entry. I am pleased to report that although progress has been slow this work is starting to bear fruit with UKBA recognising that interfaces are required and producing an initial specification of the fields required for generating applicants’ certificate of sponsorships. Further details are available at www.ucisa.ac.uk/members/activities/immigration.aspx.

UCISA also has membership on the MIAP (Managing Information Across Partners) HE Implementation Advisory Board. The proposal to introduce an extended character set into UCAS products for the 2010 admissions cycle (ie September 2009) was related to the MIAP programme as the extended character set is part of the common data definitions for the programme. A readiness survey developed jointly between UCAS and UCISA revealed that the sector was unprepared for the introduction and as a consequence the introduction has been deferred. In addition UCISA has continued to liaise with HESA, UCAS and the Student Loans Company.

HEFCE’s Shared Services Advisory Group has included UCISA representation since its inception. The group, after initially focusing on a wide range of institutionally led feasibility studies, is now looking at potential strategic services that could have national application. Additionally we have contributed to the development of the JISC’s shared services and service oriented architecture strand of activity.

One of the “hot topics” of the year was access management. UCISA produced guidance in March on the options available to institutions and has since lobbied the JISC to ensure that support for those institutions still to implement an access management solution continues. Discussions have been ongoing and it is expected that an announcement will be made by the JISC in the near future.

Finally, John Denham, the Secretary of State for Universities, Innovation and Skills, invited Sir Ron Cooke to contribute a paper on becoming a world leader in e-learning. UCISA contributed to Sir Ron’s contribution and is looking to identify areas where we can contribute to ensuring the UK remains at the forefront in this field and to the wider debate on the future of higher education. The report is accessible from the UCISA website (www.ucisa.ac.uk/news/2008-11-13-he_enquiry.aspx) and we would welcome your views and comments by email to execsec@ucisa.ac.uk.

Best practice

A total of sixteen events were run during the course of the year including three multi-day conferences, a quarter of which were sold out ahead of their booking deadlines. The first event of the year was the first in what is anticipated to be a series of events targeted at information/IT services senior management level which look to develop the skills of our staff to meet the leadership challenges the sector is now facing. The event was very well received; the second in the series is now open for booking (see www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/exec/Events/2009/directorsforum_leadership.aspx ).

The Management Conference in Glasgow was again well attended with the speakers covering a wide range of topics including virtualisation, shared services and the use of technology in fertility clinics, plus a look into the future from Nick Jones of Gartner. This year’s conference includes a number of innovative features including institutional showcases and an exhibition only pass to allow non-delegates to visit the exhibition. For further details and booking see www.ucisa.ac.uk/events/2009/conference.aspx.

The User Support Conference help in July included a significant proportion of workshop and discussion sessions allowing best practice to be shared between the delegates and the CISG Conference in November, in addition to updating the community on a range of initiatives, sought to look into the future with an exercise on scenario planning.

In addition to the main conferences, seminars were run by UCISA’s groups on topics as diverse as IT governance, innovation in communications and accessibility. A number of courses were also run for professional skills for advisory staff and, for our corporate members, selling IT to universities. The Leadership Foundation has continued to run the Introduction to management and Making management work courses on behalf of UCISA and SCONUL and UCISA continues to work with the Foundation and SCONUL on the Future Leaders programme, the fourth instance of which will be run in 2009.

We would like to thank all the volunteers who have contributed to the development of events, to the speakers at our events and of course, our Corporate Members for their contribution, both in providing speakers and in sponsoring events.

The Innovations and communications workshop run in February included presentations from the authors of a number of case studies on communicating with IT departments’ customers. These case studies were included in a Best Practice Guide, published on the day of the event.

Members of the Academic Support Group carried out the fourth survey of technology enhanced learning. Preliminary results were discussed at the User Support Conference with the results published and presented at the Association of Learning Technologists Conference in September. One of the findings of the report was that meeting student expectations was a primary driver in introducing technology enhanced learning. This is a common theme picked up in the case studies on outsourcing student email and storage that UCISA has worked on with the JISC. These case studies and associated briefing papers will be published shortly.

UCISA continues to promote best practice through awards. The University of Nottingham were awarded the Staff Development Group’s Best Practice Award on Opportunities for Staff Development within project management practices and the case study from the University of Wolverhampton on Innovation and communications was judged the best. Judging for the 2008 UCISA Award for Excellence has just taken place and the announcement of the winner will be made shortly.

Finally UCISA has looked to continue to look for opportunities to develop further resources for the community. I am pleased to announce that the JISC have agreed funding for a project to develop a simplified ITIL framework, tailored to the HE environment and academic culture has been approved with the initial focus being Service operation/transition. UCISA has also submitted an application to HEFCE for a project to assess the cost to the institution of a number of IT outages.

Peter Tinson
Executive Secretary,
UCISA


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