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Exhibitor briefing


We look forward to welcoming you to the UCISA17 Conference.  We are grateful for the support you and your fellow exhibitors and sponsors give UCISA and hope you have a productive few days at Celtic Manor.  This briefing highlights the current issues for IT departments and is intended to help you get the most out of the event.


The sector is facing a number of challenges over the coming years.  The uncertainty caused by the decision to leave the European Union is already having an impact with UCAS reporting that the number of applications from EU students has fallen by 7%, contributing to an overall fall in applications for undergraduate courses.


With fewer students applying to study at university, the competition for those students increases.  Consequently, institutions have continued to improve the student experience by investing in the estate and new facilities, streamlining processes and implementing new systems.  The expectation is that such investments will be reflected in improved ratings in the National Student Survey (NSS).  The NSS includes questions about IT facilities but the ubiquitous nature of IT means that it has a broad impact across the NSS.  Technology is at the heart of curriculum redesign, improvements in online learning and quality learning spaces.  Going forward, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will be an additional indicator; institutions will need to make use of the data they have in order to provide evidence for the TEF.


The data an institution holds is now recognised as a major asset.  The use of learner analytics is now well established and the consequent interventions beneficial to both students and the institution.  Data is now underpinning many management decisions and allowing modelling of scenarios to facilitate effective planning.  Senior management are looking for clear and timely performance data for their institutions through reporting tools and dashboards.


The sector faces an increasing threat from cyber security attacks; the need for information security has never been greater. Whilst distributed denial of service attacks and ransomware generally come from outside the institution, there is also a threat from within from a lack of awareness as much as any malicious action. Institutions need to protect their data and intellectual property but continue to provide an open and accessible environment.


The potential impact of cyber attacks will be greater as institutions look to a digital future.  The challenges are not always technical; there is a lack of digital capabilities in both the staff and student body and the pace of change is such that skills shortages are likely to get worse.


The financial outlook for the sector is far from rosy and the decline in student applications exacerbates the situation.  As a result, there will be a continued drive towards improving efficiency not only through automation, self-service and process improvement but also by making more effective use of cloud services and better use of applications and services already deployed.  However, it is not all bleak – some institutions are actively planning for growth.  Others may seek to take advantage of the proposals in the Higher Education and Research Bill to consider different operating models, modes of delivery or areas for expansion outside the normal domain. 


Opportunities will await those suppliers that are creative and can help their customers think out of the box and come up with innovative solutions in these challenging times.


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 HESA Data Futures programmes and we are currently lobbying UKVI for information on the proposed changes to the sponsor management system used to issue visas.  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 technology to universities course for corporate sales and marketing staff.

I hope that you find this briefing a useful aid to your conversations with the delegates.  Background on political factors influencing the sector will be available on the UCISA website shortly.  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 at Celtic Manor.


Peter Tinson
Executive Director


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Group: Annual Conference Organising Group (ACOG)

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