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Reflections from the Group Chair: IG conference 18

After months of planning, the dust is now settling following this year’s sold-out UCISA Infrastructure Group Conference, The changing face of infrastructure: tin, clouds and people.

I'm Mat Flower the current Chair of the Infrastructure Group, a 3-year role that I began earlier this year. I’ve led IG’s annual conference organising for the last four years, 
but I still find the start of our annual conference a somewhat nervy time. Inevitably, I’m asking myself questions like:

  • "Have we got the conference theme right?"
  • "Will the delegates find the programme interesting/relevant/enjoyable?"
  • "Will there be any travel issues?"

It seems like the only one I needed to have worried about was the last one (those who were stuck on the M6 northbound will attest to this!). IG consists of volunteers from IT 
departments from HE and FE institutions across the length and breadth of the UK, and we always strive to deliver events that we ourselves would want to attend. Looking back 
now at the two days we spent at Crewe Hall it really feels like we delivered our best conference yet.

Crewe Hall

Where to start? Well, Crewe Hall was a fantastic venue, the splendour of Downton Abbey but with excellent modern conferencing facilities.

Session Break

Even before IG18 started proper, there was a real buzz around the exhibition space as delegates and exhibitors alike caught up, chatted and got ready for the start. 
After the Welcome Address by UCISA Chair David Telford we were underway with a day of varied and really engaging sessions.

Session Breakout, including delegates and Exhibitors

The last session of the day came from ethical hacker Jamie Woodruff, which did more to keep me awake at night then any amount of coffee ever could! 
A fresh addition to the Day 1 programme this year was a post-day 1 drinks reception in the exhibition space. This was a great way to relax after a full day of 
sessions as well as provide delegates and exhibitors with a chance to chat about current challenges and potential opportunities. The day closed with a drinks reception 
in the Hall of Pillars, before we all moved to the gorgeous Long Hall for a fantastic conference dinner, both of which were sponsored by Nutanix.

Day 2 picked up where Day 1 left off, with some brilliant sessions covering all three of the main ingredients from the conference title. The penultimate session from 
“the mighty Huddersfield” (to quote Alistair Reid-Pearson, the new Group Chair for Support Services) on ‘Adding Value with Values’ had the added benefit of proving 
that embarrassingly I can’t remember my own institutions values! The conference closed with a hugely engaging and enjoyable presentation from technology and gaming 
journalist Kate Russell. Kate talked to us about what impact the changes and trends in technology will have on our own Universities and students in the years ahead…
with her presentation ending with the inevitable cute cat pics!

Kate Russel

There followed a few words from myself, and I was very conscious that I was the only thing standing between our delegates and the weekend. 
With that the curtain closed on another successful IG conference.

Group Chair +1 logo One particular highlight for me this year was that we were fortunate to be in the position to pilot a new UCISA scheme Group Chair +1, or GC+1
This initiative allows Group Chairs to introduce someone from their own institution to the benefits of attending that groups main conference, and I was 
very pleased to have my colleague Ivan Hollins attend. Ivan thoroughly enjoyed the experience and found it very rewarding and is already planning 
how to share what he learned over the two days with his colleagues at Wolverhampton. He has also been speaking to UCISA 
about how he found IG18 and you can hear Ivan talk here.

We really hope we delivered an inspiring programme for all those who attended our sold-out event and that everyone had a great two days. 
We did have a few last-minute curve balls thrown our way but we deftly dealt with these and everything seemed to work out in the end… 
although stress-levels did spike on a couple of occasions! With all that said, IG18 wouldn’t have been possible without:

  • The IG18 organising committee
  • The brilliant team at UCISA HQ
  • Our event sponsors
  • Every one of our fantastic speakers
  • All of the exhibitors who joined us at IG18
  • And most of all…our delegates!

We look forward to welcoming you all to IG19 in Leeds!


Mat Flower



Published by  on 5 October 2018
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