The second part of this afternoon's session was spent looking at some of the top issues we'd raised. Before every meeting we each submit 3 issues to the group, in confidence - things that are troubling us, or causing us work, or things we're wrestling with. It always provides topics for lively discussion, and it's good to see what other people are struggling with. The three top ones today were finances and planning, the student experience, and reorganisations and restructuring.
We split into 3 groups and discussed each, and then reported back. I was in the student experience one, and it was good to see we're all in the same boat. And that boat is, of course, how can we maintain and improve the student experience in a time of decreasing funding, but increasing expectations especially after the introduction of fees. Of course, you can't know you're improving satisfaction unless you measure it, and there are different ways of doing this. The NSS is often quoted, but the only question in the entire survey about IT is fairly useless - did you have access to IT? Nothing about how good or relevant it is. There are other surveys, and one I have to plug today is the Times Higher Student Experience survey, which was announced today, and Sheffield University came second. We were top for library facilities, which we mustn't forget includes a building we have a joint involvement in, our Information Commons.
Other things we touched on include a unanimous agreement that we need to improve the way technology is used by teaching staff, both in whether they know how to use it, and how it can best be used. Also, what if anything, will be able to charge for under the new regime. Printing for instance.
Last session was a good presentation on the interaction between University IT departments and NHS ones, especially in those Universities that have been awarded Academic Health Science Centres (AHSC). Lots of issues, especially around the different networks and systems we use, and the need for very strict security controls where patient data is involved. Many of have experience of buildings with dual networks, wireless access points in the same room broadcasting different networks, and desktops so locked down that valid systems, such as the VLE, can't be accessed. Some tricky problems, but good to see that some small progress is being made.
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