Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Funding cuts and our Vice-Chancellor speaks

Yesterday I was at a RUGIT meeting - the IT Directors of the Russell Group of Universities. One of the major topics of conversation was of course the Browne report on University financing and student fees in particular, and the forthcoming spending review. We talked about many things - what the effect of rising student fees might have on their expectations and what services they might expect to see - at a time when our budgets could be falling. We talked about the effect of falling budgets might have on us as IT Directors, what services we might be able to provide, and what we might have to stop. We also discussed how we might source services differently in order to put our resources onto supporting key Unsiverity objectives. I made the point that some are nervous at sourcing services from outside of the institution, as the control and the ability to deliver excellent is lost. I made the point that in my opinion not every service has to be excellent - sometimes good enough will have to be just that. Take email for example. I'm not saying that Google don't provide an excellent service because they do, but if their calendar for example doesn't quite have the same functionality as our existing one, does it really matter? Isn't it better to make decisions about what services the University needs to deliver its mission and focus on them?

So, we wait with trepidation this morning until we find out what the Chancellor has done to Higher Education. The only good thing seems to be that science funding might have been protected, but we shall see. Science is of course vital to us all, and to our economic recovery, but it is not the only subject that Universities excel in. On the train on the way home yesterday I read a post by my own Vice-Chancellor, a moving and passionate article supporting all University subjects and education, not just the "priority"ones. Well worth a read, and I wholeheartedly support his sentiments.

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