Higher education institutions must change their view of IT departments if they are to effectively deal with huge funding changes, according to analyst house Ovum.
In its report 'As UK Higher Education’s Budget Goes Down, IT Steps Up', the company said HEs must view IT departments as a "strategic partner", as they "will play a critical role in enabling institutions to manage the turbulent times ahead".
The report calls for HEs to boost their online learning platforms to cope with an expected increase in part-time students, and to also look for new supplier partners who can help them address the increased demands of higher fee-paying full-time students.
Jessica Tsai, an Ovum analyst and author of the report, said, “In the face of an uncertain future, HEs must view their IT department as an integral part of the institution’s overall business strategy, not just somewhere to turn when technology is not working."
She said, “The student protests in 2010 highlighted the proposed dramatic increase in tuition fees and the decline in public funding for HEs. The increase in fees will have significant implications for the IT department and will put pressure on institutions to view technology as a valued partner.”
Under the new proposals, the basic tuition fee rate will increase from £3,290 to £6,000 and the cap has been raised to £9,000. In addition, public funding has declined, with the government recently cutting it by 40 percent.
According to Tsai, the changes will boost adoption of technology services and solutions that increase efficiency and productivity. At the same time, she said HE IT departments will be asked to scrutinise their technology portfolios, prioritise outstanding projects and renegotiate vendor contracts.
“This means HEs must view their IT department as a key player in their ability to manage change, which will require a shift in attitudes. IT departments should also step up and voice their expertise and propose ideas and innovative solutions that can help address the challenges institutions are facing,” said Tsai.
Last week, analysts at Forrester said that despite a "tight" environment for overall education spending, global technology spending in the sector will be a "bright spot" in 2011. "Globalisation and the drive to capture a greater share of the global economy, population growth, and a rising middle class has created the perfect storm for educational demand," said Forrester.
The company researched the global education technology market from primary to university level by speaking to leading technology providers and a number of school organisations.
The "Schools Move Beyond The Basics: Competition Will Drive Technology Into The Education Market" report found that IT decision-makers in education surveyed by Forrester spent a greater percentage of revenue on technology than other industries. The education average was 5.5 percent compared with the overall average of 4.2 percent. In retail and wholesale for instance, the percentage was only 2.9 percent.