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Coming up at UCISA17

By James Woodward, Client Services Manager, Manchester Metropolitan University

Posted by Hannah Vickers | February 04, 2017 | Events

It doesn’t seem like yesterday when we were all transfixed with John McCarthy telling his story. So many of us remember what happened and had read his book that everyone was hanging off his every word. It was this that gave the Conference Organising Committee the inspiration to put together an even more engaging programme for UCISA17.

This year we will be returning to the excellent Celtic Manor just outside Newport from 8-10 March, full of energy and enthusiasm to make this year’s conference something everyone will remember.

We have tried to cover the latest hot topics that IT professionals are having to deal with in HE, with a mix of motivational speakers that will give us all the inspiration to return to work with a new-found energy, wanting to make a difference and build on the vision for the future for our staff.

The conference will start with a futurist, Stefan Hytforrs. Before we start to look at the excellent work we have all being doing and can’t wait to share with the community we will be looking to the future. Although we don’t have a theme to the conference, it is important to concentrate on how we can make a difference moving forward and later in the afternoon we will have a talk from Andy Whittaker on the Art of Being Brilliant. I realise that we all think we are brilliant at what we do, and you may all be thinking ‘why are you telling us what we already know?’, ‘we already know how to be brilliant’, ‘maybe I should go for a swim instead’. I would urge you to park those thoughts and find out how we can all be brilliant, properly brilliant and how we can transfer this to our teams and staff.

Without integrating with our sponsors and partners, this conference would not be possible and it is important that the delegates engage and attend their sessions. Instead of just a supplier session, we have asked for Partner Case Studies which are customer-led so they can demonstrate the value they have brought and not just the theory about how they would enhance your university. The feedback from previous years has found that this is what the delegates are after so I urge you to attend and make the most out of what other people have learnt.

Staying with the suppliers, there will be a full and engaging exhibition. I have personally been speaking to some of the suppliers, asking them to give us something in the exhibition that we will remember – expect a series of live demos, mixed with case studies and plenty of interaction. Samsung will also be bringing their experience zones again. These were really popular and they have promised to make them even more focused on how Samsung technology can support higher education.

As usual, we will be keeping the theme of the Wednesday evening closely guarded but please be assured there will be plenty to keep you amused as well as giving you plenty of time to catch up will colleagues and network with people you haven’t seen for a while.

Sandwiched between all these presentations will be the University Showcases and Video Case Studies. This year we have had a number of excellent submissions from institutions wishing to share the work they have done. Covering topics such as digital transformation, improving student representation and unearthing hidden treasures, please make every effort to attend. We will also have large screens around the conference displaying video case studies. These will be short films, showcasing excellent work that has been done. There is still time to submit a video and you will be able to vote on your favourite the winner being announced at the conference dinner on the Thursday evening.

The rest of the programme is made up of excellent speakers from both within and outside the sector. There will be an update on Jisc activities from David Maguire as well John O’Brien, the President and CEO of EDUCAUSE, sharing his thoughts on the future of technology in education. It will be interesting to see if universities in the US have the same thoughts as we do. 

Are they experiencing the same issues and what technologies are they thinking about to address these?

With us all having a keen interest in security we have Jamie Woodruff, an ethical hacker. He successfully hacked Facebook during a competition whilst at university. He will talk about the importance of system and network security and is known for disclosing worldwide exploits and vulnerabilities within leading security applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Apple and Google.

Finishing the conference, we have a presentation from Angela Lamont. Although the title, It shouldn’t happen to a geek, may offend the people who do not consider themselves to be in the geek category, I am sure they will be able to relate to what Angela has to say and soon realise that there is a bit of geek in all of us.

The conference committee has put in huge amount of effort this year to ensure that the quality of speakers, the relevance of the programme and the time you have to share experiences with others matches the expectations.

On a final note, this is the last conference that Chris Sexton will be chairing as she retires from the University of Sheffield and steps down from chairing the conference.  Chris has been so influential in the sector, having been both chair of UCISA and RUGIT as well as speaking and sharing thoughts and ideas at many conferences. I am sure this will not be the last we see of her as she has made a number of great friends. Maybe we can convince her to come and do the stand-up routine she did for charity earlier this year at next year’s conference – watch this space… 

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