Jisc and Emerge Education today launched a programme to give good edtech startups the recognition they deserve.
Step up assesses emerging startups against key sector requirements, awarding the 'assessed by Jisc' badge to those that can be trusted to deliver technological innovations and sustain a high level of service for as long as customers need it.
The step up programme supports the ambitions of the government’s edtech strategy to help create a vibrant edtech business sector in the UK and provide “proven, high-quality products that meet the needs of educators and foster a pipeline of fresh ideas”. The universities minister, Chris Skidmore MP, joined university vice-chancellors, college principals and industry experts at today’s launch event.
Asked about the digital strategy's perceived focus on schools, the minister said:
"Edtech is absolutely critical to our education strategy. HE is already really successful in it's own right, and that's partly thanks to the undertakings of Jisc and the Janet Network."
Among the first nine edtech startups to complete the programme is Unitu, a digital platform that enables students and staff to discuss issues privately and transparently. This helps institutions improve student satisfaction and lets students give feedback in real time.
Unitu founder, Anish Bagga said:
“Creating a transparent environment for students to have their voice heard is increasingly important in the student-institution dynamic.
"Jisc's health check gives that extra reassurance to institutions looking to work with us, helping Unitu support universities to improve the relationship between students and staff.
"My hope is that the step up programme will open doors. It's one document that shows that we're reliable and credible so we can start productive conversations."
Paul Feldman, chief executive at Jisc, commented:
“At Jisc, we want to help transform education by making the technologies that are shaping the fourth industrial revolution more accessible to the sector. A key step toward this is contributing to the government’s edtech strategy by supporting startups that can help education institutions access products bespoke to their needs, for example platforms that collect real-time feedback on courses.
"Our step up programme is a vital development in giving universities and colleges the confidence to engage with innovators offering some fantastic solutions that can make real change in the sector.”
Helping to overcome 'significant barriers'
Nic Newman, partner, Emerge Education, said:
“We are delighted to have helped lead this cross-sector higher and further education collaboration that has resulted in the development of the step up programme, co-created by Jisc and Emerge Education. The UK is a global leader for edtech start-ups but they face significant barriers in piloting and procurement, as highlighted by the government’s recently published strategy.
“This important programme of change will provide senior leaders and startup founders with the information and tools they need to work together to unlock the strategic benefits of innovative edtech products for colleges and universities.”
What startups said at the step up launch
"When I mention step up, the mood immediately changes. When universities hear we've gone through this process with Jisc, they relax."
- David Shull, Handshake
"For us, step up is a way of showing universities that we have thought every aspect of our business through and have answered the questions they will care about."
- Hayley McCarthy, Aula
"Having this approval from Jisc gives institutions confidence but it also saves them time. Having that tick from Jisc makes a huge difference to helping us work towards our goals."
- Vivi Friedgut , Blackbullion