As a follow-up to a podcast recorded with Talis last year, the Executive Secretary for JISC, Dr Malcolm Read, talks with Talis. In the current climate, JISC’s overriding priority is to help UK Higher Education to cut costs thus safeguarding quality, and Malcolm has in mind not only efficiency gains from back end systems, but also areas such as cloud computing and Green IT. A shift to a more private sector model for universities may result in the breakdown of the top-slicing funding model, replaced by more direct funding of JISC by the sector. We discuss whether it is true that JISC has achieved good things such as the Janet network, but perhaps not enough since its inception. Malcolm explains how JISC evaluates value for money across all its activities. We then discuss the recently published JISC Strategy 2010-2012, of which Malcolm provides a useful outline. He has a strong feeling that management information is currently under-exploited in universities and could be used effectively in key areas such as student retention. We explore the value of JISC initiatives in non-traditional areas such as learning spaces. Malcolm also discusses JISC’s espousal of the open agenda and explores ways in which JISC is opening up in its own practices. Finally we look at how JISC is trying to address some of the uncertainties of the future.
What do you think? Are higher education technologists outside the UK correct to envy the support that JISC provides to British universities? Is Malcolm right to concede that JISC could have achieved more since the giant step forward that the JANET network unquestionably was? And is JISC’s strategy radical or robust enough to face the challenges that both the higher education sector and indeed the UK as a whole face?