Today, 8 February 2011, the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) has announced its findings and recommendations for the future of JISC.
The independent review chaired by Professor Sir Alan Wilson and carried out over a four month period concludes that, ‘JISC is an invaluable national resource which has evolved in response to increasing demands over 20 years’. It recommends that due to the breadth and complexity of JISC’s activity its structure, processes, projects, programmes and governance need to be simplified and reshaped, ensuring that it continues to deliver world-class leadership in the innovative use of technology for education and research, for which it is renowned.
Dr Malcolm Read, JISC executive secretary says, “Given the changes in the economic climate and the current reshaping of the UK education system, the time was right for HEFCE to conduct a review of JISC to make sure that we are in the best position to carry on delivering excellent services to the higher education and research communities.
“Since JISC was set up technology has become an essential part of the business of every university and college. We have worked hard over the years to develop our capabilities, frequently embracing new challenges and have a reputation as a quality partner that is capable of making a real difference. This review gives us a chance to look at how we operate in a very different environment to that which existed when JISC was formed, we can take stock of where we are and what we have achieved, and use this information to drive the organisation forward.”
The review gives areas and recommendations for JISC to consider how it rises to this challenge, all of which will need thorough investigation and consultation before deciding which will be implemented. These include:
- focussing activities to achieve a large impact through activities clearly linked to the sectors’ priorities
- services and projects should be rationalised with a view to significantly reducing their number
- JISC should become a separate legal entity funded through a combination of grants and subscriptions or user charges
- structure and processes should change, with the Board becoming smaller, being differently composed and becoming more strategic
- there should be discussions between JISC, the funders, sector representatives and other bodies to determine the overall funding strategy for ICT in higher and further education
- focus on delivering ‘routes to best practice’, wherever such practice resides
- focus its research and development work on horizon-scanning and thought leadership
- focus on understanding current and possible future trends in ICT and how they impact on the sectors
- review JISC’s relationship with the four companies JANET UK, JISC Collections, JISC Advance and BUFVC, that it funds
Dr Read added, “We have a lot of work to do in consultation with the education and research community to help us build upon our successes and make JISC even stronger for the future. JISC will be more agile, focus on delivering best practice to colleges and universities at grassroots level and continue to look to the future digital technology needs of the UK education and research community.
“We will need to explore the recommendations, consult with partners and institutions to develop a programme to make the recommendations reality. This will be done through a range of consultation routes from direct discussions with sector representative bodies, to online for individuals and organisations to make their preferences and suggestions.
“Implementing the recommendations after this work will ensure that JISC can continue to be responsive to the ever changing needs of further and higher education by helping them exploit technology and by funding a world class infrastructure.”