Wednesday, 13 March 2013

VCs Question Time

Now at the UCISA Management Conference in Liverpool. Opening session is a new format, a Question Time format with three VCs, chaired by Peter Gallimore who for many years was Assistant Editor of the Today Programme.

A,B,C relate to different VCs, but not necessarily the same one :-)

First question
IT services are fundamental to University services 24 hours a day, however very few funded to provide 24 services. So?

A 24 hours essential, not appreciated enough. Need to ensure that IT services not taken for granted.
B Resilience and quality of software important. Need to ensure that our systems are resilient to minimise downtime. Must work together with suppliers to make sure quality if of highest standard.
Moving into a world where we are student demand led. Students want 24 hour access, and 24 hour services. Also issue of online course, time zones etc.
C How do ensure we get 24/7 support that doesn't rely on goodwill? Be clear about what we want and plan for it to happen. Not just let it happen. Need to contract appropriately with staff. Can't rely on serendipity and goodwill. Be clear of what is expected of staff.
Look at how other sectors do it.
Outsource what you can eg mail.
But don't outsource where you need to provide personalised service.

Question about big data and opening up research data. How big an issue is open access?
A In favour of opening up data. Why shouldn't work that is publicly funded be publicly accessible, unless it is commercially sensitive? But uncertainly around funding model - top slice from Science budget would be a bad thing.
B Issues around FoI. When should info and data go into public domain.
Under what conditions should research data be restricted? Need policies and clear guidance.

University Finance Directors sit at top table, Given key strategic importance of IT, should IT Director be there as well?
A Yes, but need to take part in wider debate and wider strategic direction of University.
B All Universities different. Some senior management teams too big. Are issues about how professional service and academic parts of Universities are structures and represented.
C IT Director should have early involvement and early strategic influence, yes. But how that's achieved depends on appropriate consultation.

Needs of IT need to be made and considered at top table, can be done without sitting at it.

Need good communication between SMT and IT, in both directions.

Is an HE Institution a "business". Who are our shareholders and customers. Should we have some level of governance as in a commercial business

A Don't have shareholder expectations to meet, but we have students expectations to meet, should treat them better than shareholders. Keep our promises, deliver quality, and be business like and efficient in our processes.
All of us are accountable to far more stakeholders than ever before. Have to be business like in our decision making. Students are not simply a financial transaction, we are driven by intellectual curiosity, and this has to be financed.

B Agreed, HEIs have to be run on business principles. Business cases are critically important. But, we are driven by different outcomes. Not profit. We have to take forward major social challenges, eg social mobility.

C If we're not business like and effective we will go bust, if one university goes bust would have huge impact on rest of sector because of declining confidence in which we would be held. We're values driven organisations, not driven by delivering dividends to shareholders. We have to understand and be responsive to our stakeholders. We're not ivory towers.

How do you get input from the student body into design of services, and how appropriated is NSS in measuring success

A NSS is crude, and you can't rely on it solely. Need to embedded it into much more structured assessment of student need through organised feedback. Need rich information form staff and students. Social media can be used to collect it.

B Student engagement and the student voice being discussed by QAA at moment. How is this fed into QAA institutional review. Can be formalised, but all student feedback should be collected and acted on. Students must be given opportunity to communicate on IT provision, needs to be a partnership.

C Can't ignore NSS, but it is an exit interview. Most institutions have embedded ways of collecting student feedback. Derby have a programme rep system, trained by SU, they hold senior team to account in public once a year. Ignore student voice at your peril. It is extremely useful.

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1 comment:

Dave Berry said...

Research Libraries have LibQual ( Maybe we need an IT equivalent?