Universities and colleges in England stand to benefit from a new programme of services and investment to deliver efficiencies through shared services in cloud computing infrastructure and applications.
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 – 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. 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 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.
The programme will start in March 2011 and finish in March 2012.