We look forward to welcoming you to the UCISA16 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 Manchester. This briefing highlights the current issues for IT departments and is intended to help you get the most out of the event.
It is clear that the sector will see a significant amount of change in the coming years. The effect of the removal of the student fee cap in England is starting to be seen, funding continues to be reduced and, in the next nine months, the proposals in the Green Paper Teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice will be developed. Each has an impact on IT service departments.
Universities are already starting to make more effective use of the data they hold. Data is at the core of scenario planning, modelling the impact of variations in student numbers on institutional finances and resources. The Green Paper will draw on institutionally supplied data for the Teaching Excellence Framework; it is likely that this and other measures introduced in England will also be introduced elsewhere in the UK. Data on all student engagement is being used to identify those students at risk of dropping out but, as the Higher Education Commission’s report From Bricks to Clicks notes, there is perhaps greater benefit to be delivered through using analytics for adaptive and personalised learning. The HEIDI Plus and Jisc’s Learning Analytics programmes are two national initiatives looking to make more effective use of data in the sector.
Many IT departments have addressed the perennial challenge of delivering more for less by moving to a blended delivery model with cloud services integrated with in house provision. As UCISA’s briefing paper on cloud computing notes, the reasons for moving to the cloud are varied. In many instances institutions have deployed cloud solutions to improve the quality of service, improve resilience, or address skills shortages. We have seen the emergence of more flexible arrangements to facilitate sharing and allow extension to other institutions. These arrangements benefit both the supplier as they facilitate growth within a single contract and the institutions involved as they enjoy economies of scale.
The skills required within an IT department have changed; there is a growing need for relationship management functions, both internally to identify the requirements of the institution and externally to work in partnership with suppliers to ensure efficient and effective systems. The need for partnership extends to collaboration with other service departments. One example is the development of new learning spaces; UCISA has recently collaborated with AUDE and SCHOMS, its sister organisations for Estates and Media Services respectively to publish a Learning Spaces Toolkit to provide guidance in this area. The effective use of technology and social media requires staff (both academic and professional services) to understand how the digital solutions can be effectively deployed. UCISA has published case studies on Digital capabilities and the Social Media Toolkit to highlight best practice.
The threat of cyber attack has become one of biggest concerns for UK businesses. Universities and colleges are no different and IT Directors will be deploying technical measures as well as engaging with their colleagues to develop policy, to raise awareness and to implement an effective information security management system. A year ago UCISA launched its Information Security Management Toolkit to provide guidance on how to implement an information security management system and we have recently procured an online course aimed at developing a broad awareness of Information Security issues among university staff.
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 highlighted the need for early supplier engagement in the HEDIIP and HESA Data Futures programmes and have worked with Jisc to develop a template a statement of requirements to help suppliers understand the needs of UK higher education in relation to the electronic management of assessment. In addition, we have
- Collaborated with HESA to run a workshop to raise awareness of a number of HESA related developments;
- 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 IT to universities course for corporate sales and marketing staff;
- Worked with a UCISA Corporate Member to deliver savings for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills estimated to be £600,000 on their disability support programme.
I hope that you find this briefing a useful aid to your conversations with the delegates. Background on political factors influencing the sector is available on the UCISA website. 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 Manchester.
UCISA Executive Director