In order to facilitate the best collegiate University's teaching, learning, research and administration systems and to ensure a co-ordinated and coherent approach to the development, deployment and support of ICT services, the ICT Strategy Programme first considered the current ICT provision, management and governance of ICT within the University and the colleges.
The Computing Services provide many University-wide services including central email server which is used by the majority of undergraduates and a large proportion of most other University members. The Computing Services is also responsible for the 10GB ethernet backbone that provides connections to around 300 colleges are departments within the University. Other services include, but are not limited to, a central helpdesk; a large scale backup solution available to all University members except undergraduates; a Virtual Learning Environment (currently Bodington); a computing shop, and large scale printing and scanning services.
The Computing Services provide a large IT Learning programme, available free at the point of delivery to all members of the University. The computing services provide dedicated priority support, career development advice and networking for all IT Support Staff in the collegiate University, of which there are currently around 600.
Library services are currently provided by Oxford University Library Services (OULS). The principal IT system run by OULS is the Union catalogue and Library system that pervades the whole University.
Large scale administrative services such as those used for finance, payroll, HR and student administration are all currently provided by the Business Services and Projects (BSP) section of the University's Central administration department. These systems are commonly referred to as "business systems". BSP was formerly known as Management Information Systems (MIS).
Desktop services and support are generally provided in Oxford by IT Staff who are directly responsible to their own College or Department. Some IT Staff work for more than one unit. A product of the extremely devolved nature of the ICT support in Oxford means that the quality of user-experience in terms of ICT provision and support can vary greatly depending on the particular College or Department in which the user is based, or working.
There are dozens of mail servers, file servers, and other specialist equipment in use around the University. This prolific growth in localised ICT services is considered not to be cost-effective or resilient and the ICT Strategy Programme attempts to encourage rationalisation of this duplication of effort.
Attempts have been made to coordinate ICT provision at various levels in Oxford. Some divisions have ICT Committees or Steering groups, and the Medical Sciences Division is unique in having a whole department (The Information Management Services Unit) devoted solely to ICT provision and support for that division.
The IT Support Staff register was introduced by the Computing Services in 2000, as an attempt to bring together into one place a list of all ICT Staff in Oxford. It enabled, for the first time, a community of ITSS to share experience and expertise. Two emailing lists were created, a compulsory one for announcements and an optional one for discussion. The ITSS register enabled OUCS to provide a higher level of, and faster, service to IT Support Staff to in turn enable them to provide better service to their own user constituency.
ICT Budgets are currently set in a rather piecemeal manner with individual units bidding for individual projects. This does not always give the University best value-for-money in ICT expenditure. The chart below shows some of the current expenditure and makes predictions about future expenditure. The idea of the ICT Strategic Plan is to maximise the value for a given level of expenditure, rather than to reduce expenditure per se.
There are around 600 IT Support Staff based in Colleges and Departments. These staff are paid on many different grades, notable some on clerical grades, some on academic-related library and clerical grades and some on research grades. Colleges are of course free to hire their IT staff on any terms, including remuneration, they wish.
Oxford has recently used the Higher Education Role Analysis (HERA) methodology to assess all posts and is moving to the new national pay structure on 1st August 2006.
The ISIDORE Student Administration Project is one of the largest ICT projects the University has ever undertaken. It is essential to the future of the University and has, as its principal aim, to "Ensure there is a single source of student related information that is timely, accurate, comprehensive and available to all who need it." The Isidore project is a real opportunity for Oxford but also a real challenge to the informal and intricate core networks that are currently in operation in so much of the University.
The Oxford Supercomputing Centre is a large programme of projects being undertaken by Oxford, attracting large six-figure sums from the Higher Education community in the UK and beyond.
ICT in Oxford is currently overseen by The ICT Committee (ICTC). This committee meets termly and has two subcommittees, the Strategy Subcommittee and the OUCS Subcommittee. The former has as its remit the oversight of ICT Strategy in the wider University and the latter is the overview and scrutiny mechanism for OUCS.
There are other smaller groups, committees and special interest groups that all feed into ICTC. Some of these also act as steering groups for various groups and sections of OUCS, e.g. The OXTALENT (Oxford Teaching and Learning Enhanced by New Technology) that oversees the Learning Technologies Group of OUCS.
The Current ICT Service delivery model does not provide good value for money. In the 21st Century the HE sector is under increasing financial pressure so it is imperative all investments made in ICT provision must be provided as efficiently as possible and deliver as much value as possible. Oxford is among the top Universities in the world and to maintain that position it needs world-class ICT provision
External experience across the HE sector suggests that improved use of resources, including common procurement, can make cost savings of around 20%. Put another way, this means a service that is 125% better for the same cost.