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New HEPI report highlights the benefits of shared infrastructure

  • 23 October 2014

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) today publishes a new report entitled Jisc: a hidden advantage for higher education, written by the Chief Executive of Jisc, Martyn Harrow, with a Foreword by Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI.

The report highlights the £200 million annual savings from the current shared infrastructure provided by Jisc and charts the potential for new shared services – including a ‘university in a box’ concept that could free up university spending on technology for reinvestment in research, teaching and learning.

Ahead of anticipated changes to Jisc’s funding model, the report warns that policymakers and institutions need to recognise the value generated through the UK’s shared infrastructure for higher and further education.

Jisc works with every publicly-financed higher education and further education institution in the UK, more than 600 in total, and is one of the key pillars on which the world-class reputation of the education sector depends.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

‘Ministers and civil servants have not had to worry about IT infrastructure in our universities because it has generally worked well. That reflects Jisc’s world-beating success. Other countries look jealously at our successful shared service.

‘Jisc’s achievements, which often take place off the radar, are in stark contrast to other big IT projects, which have typically been over budget, late and not fit-for-purpose. Yet forthcoming changes could make Jisc a victim of its own success. Funding changes will put the onus on individual universities to subscribe to Jisc’s services for the first time.

‘In the rearview mirror, Jisc’s history looks comparatively smooth but the road ahead is bumpy and laden with obstacles. The best way to address those challenges is to recognise the benefits of collective provision for individual institutions and the education sector as a whole.’

The author of the report, Martyn Harrow, said:

‘Jisc does the things that it makes sense to do on a UK-level once rather than a hundred times over. If Jisc’s coverage were to be reduced because of decision-making that is not informed by the full value that the UK’s infrastructure brings to each institution, that would put the economies of scale and the specialised knowledge that we provide in danger.

‘There has never been a more important time for institutions to think about their use of technology. A new dialogue is needed at the highest level of each and every university to determine how the digital needs of their institution will be met, both in the immediate future and in the longer term.

‘We have a great opportunity in the years ahead to make the most of new developments in technology. If the UK is to cement its competitive advantage in higher and further education, we need to help universities tackle the new challenges head on.’

Ends

For further information please contact Nick Hillman, HEPI Director, on at n.hillman@hepi.ac.uk or Charlotte Covington, Jisc’s Media Relations Manager, at press@jisc.ac.uk.

 

Notes for Editors

1. The main points of the report include:

  • The cost reduction and cost avoidance associated with Jisc’s products and services currently amount to around £200 million a year for higher education institutions, including over £2.5 million for a typical large research-intensive university. Plans are in hand to increase this to almost £300 million in the next few years.
  • To date, Jisc has been primarily funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) in England and the equivalent Funding Bodies in the devolved nations. But for the next three years, institutions will pay a compulsory subscription charge amounting to 20 per cent of the core Jisc budget provided by HE. From 2017, compulsion may be removed, with each institution free to decide whether to continue their subscription.
  • Martyn Harrow’s ‘university in a box’ concept, could see the development and delivery of a package of back-office systems, such as for finance and student registration, that could be used by universities as a shared service, delivered using cloud technology. This would lower administration and overhead costs for every institution, mitigate the risks associated with using bespoke unsupported systems, and free up resources to focus on investment in improved learning and research.

2. Jisc is a charity that offers digital services and solutions for education and research. Its vision is for the UK to be the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world, as a means of promoting the UK’s competitive advantage. Jisc prvides institutions with network services (including the Janet network), digital content and resources and advisory services to help institutions to make the most of technology. It also negotiates with global publishers and technology companies on the sector’s behalf, represents the UK internationally and runs a selective programme of innovation and experimentation.

3. HEPI aims to ensure higher education policy-making is better informed by evidence and research. We are UK-wide, independent and non-partisan. Our Occasional Papers are designed to give experienced people working in the higher education sector the space to convey their personal views to the benefit of policymakers and institutional leaders. In the 2014 Prospect Think Tank Magazine of the Year Awards, HEPI won the ‘One to Watch’ category.

4. On 26th November 2014, Professor Paul Wellings, the former Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University and current Vice-Chancellor of Wollongong University in Australia, will deliver HEPI’s Annual Lecture at Australia House in central London. For further details on the HEPI Annual Lecture please see www.hepi.ac.uk/category/events.

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