Thursday, 16 October 2008

Another train journey with no wireless and no laptop power...

Another travelling day today – to London to the UCISA Executive meeting. Our Chairman is holidaying in Australia, so it was down to me to chair the meeting. As usual, we began with a number of strategic items, presentations and discussions before moving to the business meeting after lunch.

First off was a presentation from JISC Infonet on their Strategy Planning & Implementation initiative which is funded by the JISC Organisational Support Committee. This programme of work is aimed at supporting and improving the effectiveness of strategic planning and looking at its implementation within higher and further education institutions. One of their first tasks was to carry out a survey on strategic issues faced by institutions, and the results are now available here.

Issues relating to 'organisational infrastructure' are the biggest challenges apparently faced by institutions, over financial concerns and operating within an increasingly competitive, market-driven sector. Indeed, five of the top six issues cited as wasting the most time, effort and energy within the institution are of an infrastructural nature (relating to the quality and efficiency of processes, communication & collaboration, IT infrastructure, information quality & access and poor decision-making processes). However, when institutions were asked why they were facing these pressures, 'external factors beyond their control' was cited as the principal factor.

We then had a very interesting discussion with the Chief Executive of JANET UK Tim Marshall about how UCISA and JANET might have a more formal partnership. We have an interesting relationship –we provide mission critical services to our institutions, and JANET provides the critical network infrastructure upon which we run those services. We discussed the measurement of services and performance, the importance of good customer feedback and governance.

Our final strategic item was an update on the UKRDS which I’ve reported on before.

Lots of items covered in the business meeting including the implementation of an extended character set by UCAS to enable applicants to have their names spelled correctly including special characters such as accents. This will have an implication on our student record systems. We also had to look at the current financial situation and how it might affect our business. One obvious area is conference attendance, and sponsorship of our events by suppliers.

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