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Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Context for the review
  • What are institutions' needs and who should meet them?
  • The current operation of JISC
  • A vision for a future JISC
  • Annex A Terms of reference
  • Annex B Review Group membership
  • Annex C Review methodology
  • Annex D List of abbreviations

Executive summary

Purpose

1. This report sets out the findings and recommendations of the review chaired by Professor Sir Alan Wilson into the strategy, activities and effectiveness of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The review's terms of reference are at Annex A and the Review Group membership is listed at Annex B.

Remit of the review

2. The review was commissioned by HEFCE, working with all of JISC's public funders, both higher education (HE) and further education (FE). It encompasses the full range of JISC activities, not just those funded by HEFCE. The review process was informed by: discussions with JISC staff and Board members; interviews with key stakeholders; evidence provided by JISC and from many other sources; and by an extensive consultation with institutionssee note 1, sector bodies, comparator organisations and other interested parties.

Key points

Principal findings

3. The Review Group was impressed by the range of evidence demonstrating the success of JISC over many years. There is a common view that it has played a pivotal role in the UK as an enabler of innovation and of early, widespread adoption of information and communications technology (ICT). Its shared services (most notably the Joint Academic Network, JANET) have become indispensable to the HE and FE sectors. It has done outstanding work to create and collect electronic content and resources, and in negotiating collective procurement on behalf of the sectors. There is no comparable body within the UK, and internationally its reputation is outstanding as a strategic leader and partner.

4. Alongside this praise has come some criticism of the breadth and complexity of JISC's activity, and of its structure, processes and governance arrangements. Some of this reflects its undoubted success and the demands of different funders and institutions to extend the range of its work, and differences in need between HE and FE. All this has resulted in, at times, a lack of coherence and follow-through. There have been questions about the impact of some of JISC’s activity. In an era of financial constraint, it is necessary to refocus activities around clearer priorities, and to ensure JISC operates with a sustainable financial model.

Recommendations

5. A 'vision for the future role of JISC' is set out in paragraphs 76-91, which includes the review's recommendations. A summary of these recommendations is as follows:

  • JISC activity should be focused on achieving a large impact:
    • activities need to be clearly linked to the sectors' priorities
    • JISC should offer sector leadership through 'routes to best practice', wherever such practice resides
    • research and development activity should focus on horizon-scanning and thought leadership
    • services and projects should be rationalised, with a view to significantly reducing their number
  • JISC should be funded through a combination of grants and subscriptions/user charges
  • rather than be located within HEFCE for accountability purposes, JISC should become a separate legal entity, and the implications of this for the four companies (see paragraph 17) should be reviewed
  • governance arrangements should be clarified, to ensure that the Board takes clear overall strategic control
  • the internal structure should be clarified and simplified, to improve efficiency and control
  • a plan for the proposed internal structure and operations should estimate the savings to be achieved
  • there should be discussions between JISC, its funders, sector representatives and other bodies, to determine an overall funding strategy for ICT in the HE and FE sectors.

Action required

6. No immediate action is required of institutions in response to this document.


  1. This report uses the term 'institution' as shorthand to encompass 'universities, colleges and other learning providers' across the HE and FE sectors.

Date: 1 February 2011

Ref: HEFCE 2011/04

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Heads of all other higher education institutions throughout the rest of the UK, Heads of all other further education colleges and learning and skills providers throughout the UK

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, information and communications technology strategy, libraries, information systems, engagement with JISC, and organisations working in these and related areas

Enquiries should be directed to:

Becki Witts, tel 0117 931 7062, e-mail r.witts@hefce.ac.uk