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Exhibitor briefing

We look forward to welcoming you to the ucisa19 Leadership Conference. We are grateful for the support you and your fellow exhibitors and sponsors give ucisa and hope you have a productive few days in Edinburgh. This briefing highlights the current issues for IT departments and is intended to help you get the most out of the event.

The economic outlook for universities and colleges is far from rosy. There were press reports last year suggesting that three institutions were at risk of bankruptcy whilst others are implementing cost saving schemes, including making staff redundant. Brexit and, in England at least, the prospect of the fees regime being altered, add to the uncertainty. However challenging the financial climate is, though, there are opportunities for you as suppliers. Opportunities to help institutions operate more efficiently, opportunities to enhance the student experience through supporting improved and innovative approaches to learning and opportunities to enhance research by facilitating collaboration and cost-effective computing power and storage.

Helping improve efficiency

The continued drive to improving efficiency has seen institutions adopt a range of approaches. Some have focused on the processes themselves, deploying methods such as Lean to identify where processes may be streamlined. Others have sought to implement elements of self service to reduce the time and resource needed to carry out administrative tasks. Some have implemented artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. AI offers institutions many opportunities to improve their services – some have deployed chatbots to provide support answering queries whereas others have used AI to automate processes including admissions over the clearing period. How can you help your customers make the most of chatbots and other artificial intelligence functionality?

Improving IT service delivery

The sector continues to deploy an ever increasing range of applications to deliver quality solutions for its students. This presents a challenge to IT service departments to integrate many applications seamlessly and in real time. The challenge is further exacerbated by the growing use of software as a service – with widespread deployment of cloud solutions the IT estate is spread far and wide. The challenge is to ensure that key components are resilient and always available. How does your solution provide effective integration and data access? Can you demonstrate that your cloud solutions are secure and resilient?

Data as an asset

The importance of having access to reliable and accurate data is now recognised – data is now seen as an asset. Data is at the hub of planning and financial forecasting and many institutions are now making use of scenario planning to model variations in student fee and other income sources. Assessments of quality and value are now based on data provided by the institution. The use of learner analytics to improve retention is now well established in the sector but it is now recognised that this data may be used to assist with student wellbeing. New technologies, such as position intelligence engines, offers the possibility of location aware services. The volume of data an institutions holds provides opportunities for more effective estate management. How does your solution enrich the data set for the institution? How can you help your customers ensure that the data they hold are accurate and that legislative requirements are met?

Driving transformations in teaching and learning

We are at a point where many institutions are reflecting on the way they deliver their teaching and learning. The move to a flipped classroom requires changes to the way the estate is used with greater emphasis on group work and collaboration. Some parts of the estate, previously ‘dead’ spaces, are now being transformed into open access areas for impromptu group work. Surface based computers and interactive whiteboards are just two of the technologies being deployed to facilitate collaborative working. Lecture capture is now becoming standard with students often streaming material to their phones or tablets wherever they happen to be. The growth in work based learning and degree apprenticeships adds to the demand for access to resources from off campus whilst the continued growth of overseas campuses presents a challenge to the institution wishing to deliver a common student experience across the globe. How can you help institutions deliver a new learning experience?

Meeting the skills challenge

It is widely recognised that the skills required in the IT service departments of today are very different from a few years ago. It is likely that the skill set required in five years’ time will be different to that required now. How can you help IT service departments meet these changing requirements?

How ucisa supports you

One of ucisa’s functions is to act as a representative and lobbying body. This extends to all our members; in the past year we have represented the supplier community on the HESA Data Futures programme and highlighted your concerns about the progress of the programme to the Programme Board. Now that the programme has been delayed, we will continue to lobby for the implementation roadmap to be published as soon as possible to help both suppliers and institutions plan. In addition we have

  • Highlighted a number of procurement opportunities through our weekly digest;
  • Run seminars for corporate members highlighting the current trends in higher education;
  • Run the Selling technology to universities course for corporate sales and marketing staff.

The next iteration of the Selling technology to universities course is scheduled for Tuesday 30 April. There are a few places remaining on the course – it you wish to attend, please book by Friday 6th April.

I hope that you find this briefing a useful aid to your conversations with the delegates. The ucisa website gives news about our activities; many of the resources published and listed above are available for use by all ucisa members.  The ucisa blog includes news of activity across the sector and we also circulate a weekly digest to the ucisa Announce list. Alternatively you may wish to follow ucisa on Twitter via @ucisa.  Finally I would like to remind you that the Conference sessions are open to exhibitors and would encourage you to drop in to the sessions as they may well give you further insight on the challenges currently facing the sector.

The ucisa team and Conference Committee look forward to meeting you in Edinburgh.

Peter Tinson
Executive Director


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