This morning's session began with a discussion, led by me - quite how I managed to get the early morning spot when we'd spent the evening before in a very nice bar partaking of Bushmills I don't know... The topic was IT Support, Central or Devolved? There are several models, ranging from a central IT department running all services, support and staff, to a model where the IT department runs only basic services and departmental, faculty or college staff run local services and support. We talked around the pros and cons of all models, and those Universities where changes had been made shared their experiences. The general pattern is a move towards a model where the IT department runs all services, and locally based staff provide local, dedicated support, but they are managed by and part of the main IT department. This can provide a number of benefits and a better service to departments, particularly better cover, access to a bigger skill set, less duplication of effort and better business continuity arrangements. It was a lively discussion, and we'll be feeding some of the points raised into our IT as a Shared Service project.
Then we had a session on Higher Education in the New Funding Climate, led by the Registrar of QUB. Taking into account the global recession, public spending constraints and intensified competition, he postulated that we would see permanent and long term change in the higher education environment. In terms of our different stakeholders, we will need to be much more aware of student expectations and demands, and will have to clearly articulate our outputs and benefits, especially our economic and social value, to the taxpaying public. One of the challenges will be to differentiate ourselves, which will need to be based on capability, and focus on excellence, agility, viability and sustainibility. A good discussion followed, particularly around cross subsidies in the new era including teaching/research and arts/science.
The final session of the morning was on a recent UCISA project on the cost of IT downtime. I'll blog about that in detail when the report is published very shortly.