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The £12.5 million programme is part of a suite of activities under the University Modernisation Fund (UMF), a HEFCE fund that aims to help universities and colleges deliver better efficiency and value for money through the development of shared services.

This new programme, which will be managed by JISC, supports colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies. The programme has two core elements:

  • Investment of up to £10 million in cloud computing, shared IT infrastructure, support to deliver virtual servers, storage and data management applications.
  • Investment of up to £2.5 million to establish cloud computing and shared services in central administration functions to support learning, teaching, and research.

David Sweeney, HEFCE Director for Research, Innovation and Skills, said:

'At a time of pressure on university resources, it is critical that technology is used in a collaborative and cost-effective way, to deliver services that will benefit the sector. Cloud computing has the potential to do this in ways which will serve the academic community leading to improvements in research, teaching and administration.'

Shared IT infrastructure

A broker will be established for institutions' procurement of shared virtual servers and data centre capacity. It will act both within the higher education (HE) sector and between the HE sector and commercial suppliers. This will be set up under the auspices of JANET(UK).

A core virtual server infrastructure (a 'cloud') will be set up to offer discounted data management and storage services to HE institutions. It will be deployed in data centres starting with a pilot at Eduserv, which will work in collaboration with the Digital Curation Centre.

Up to £5.1 million will be invested in this aspect of the shared IT infrastructure programme, including funding to develop a sustainable financial model for the brokerage beyond the life of the UMF.

Up to a further £4.9 million will be invested in developing HE research data management applications to be deployed in the shared services environment.

Shared services for administration

HEFCE will invest up to a further £2.5 million to develop shared services in administrative systems that support the delivery of learning and teaching and of research. These are the priority areas for investment, with investment into shared central administrative systems to follow. They will help universities and colleges achieve efficiency savings in terms of cost, time and quality improvement. Such shared services will allow them to benefit from aggregated purchasing and reduced implementation and hosting costs, and streamlined processes.

The key components of this shared services programme will include creating:

  • a small, specialist team to support institutions in procuring administrative applications, systems and services. The services offered will be flexible to meet institutions' demands, and are likely to include:
    • establishing framework agreements for large IT systems and services
    • providing expertise to procurement teams and purchasing consortia
    • guiding institutions on interoperability solutions
  • a service to support research management and administration. This will be a modular, cloud-based service to support the management and administration of a university’s research programme from before funding is awarded through to post-award. It will include information on costing, application submission, contract and project administration, monitoring and reporting
  • a service to support electronic resource management. This will include:
    • shared systems and electronic resource management information
    • support for the management of licensing information for libraries and the resources they provide
    • a service for the secure distribution of electronic documents including official graduation documents, transcripts, status letters and the Higher Education Achievement Report.

The whole programme has been developed with strategic input from a HEFCE advisory group (Note 2) including members with wide IT experience from within the HE sector. The group considered the case for investment in each component of the programme, taking account of evidence of demand from institutions and the likely benefits and savings.

Notes

  1. Cloud computing is where flexible computing resources are delivered over the internet by external service providers. Organisations using cloud computing do so via a service provider to access data centres, application software or web services from any location. This provides flexible provision which the customer can scale up or down to meet demand.
  2. HEFCE distributes public money for teaching, research and related activities. In 2010-11 HEFCE will distribute over £7.4 billion to 130 higher education institutions and 124 further education colleges.
  3. JANET(UK) manages and operates the digital network connecting the UK higher and further education community.
  4. JISC develops and provides digital technologies for UK universities and colleges.
  5. Eduserv develops and delivers technology solutions that save money for education, health, the public sector and commercial organisations.
  6. The Digital Curation Centre helps to maintain, preserve and add value to digital research data.
  7. The advisory group members are:
    • David Sweeney (HEFCE, Chair)
    • Stephen Butcher (HEFCE)
    • Chris Cobb (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Roehampton University)
    • Martyn Harrow (Director of Information Services, Cardiff University)
    • Dr Malcolm Read (JISC)
    • Ian Lewis (HEFCE)
    • Davina Madden (HEFCE)
    • Dr Christine Sexton (Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services, University of Sheffield)
    • Mark Thorley (Natural Environment Research Council)
    • Helen Rana/Joseph Hutcheon (JISC Secretariat)