This April saw the publication of a new report from a UUK working group, describing some of the ways that the universities have been making savings through shared services, and how valuable those savings have been for the sector to date. It pulls no punches however with its conclusion that institutions will need to do more to embrace collaborative approaches if they want to remain competitive on the world stage.
At Jisc, we are fully committed to acting at a UK level to develop and support collaborative practices that deliver collective benefits. As the organisation that champions the use of digital technology in the UK’s education and research establishments we save the sector more than £250m every year in direct savings and cost avoidance, and much of that is being achieved through collaborative approaches to developing and purchasing services.
Our shared service that is most familiar to many UK colleges and universities is the Jisc network Janet, which offers world class, high speed network infrastructure designed specifically to meet the education sector’s exacting requirements for high bandwidth, reliability and security – requirements that aren’t currently met by any commercial provider. Bringing significant cost and efficiency savings to its users it also underpins a newer shared service, our shared data centre, opened late last year in partnership with specialist provider Infinity. The centre currently provides data storage and services for six scientific research organisations, offering a tailor-made, cost-effective solution that will support research collaboration.
We can also help any UK universities and colleges to save both time and money with our framework agreement on purchasing cloud and data centre services. It can help with identifying suitable solutions, filter suppliers and provide peace of mind – both because we have done the due diligence and because the framework complies with official European Union (EU) procurement procedures. And for smaller institutions, which would otherwise have to sign up to standard agreements with Microsoft, our Campus and Schools Agreement enables them to benefit from more advantageous terms and conditions.
We have plans in the pipeline to extend the range and scope of our framework agreements, aggregating demand for essential resources to negotiate cheaper prices, better terms and conditions or enhanced service levels. By negotiating for core products and services on behalf of the sector we will reduce the cost of transactions for individual universities and colleges and take any risks inherent in the process onto our own shoulders.
Our newest shared service is Kit-Catalogue, now being trialled as a way to help universities and industry to share state-of-the-art equipment and tools, reducing the need for institutions to make costly investments in kit that they may use infrequently. The databases already contain 10,000 items of high value for sharing between education and commercial enterprises – but, of course, the benefits are not only financial. Kit-Catalogue users can also tap more easily into specialist expertise, develop new projects and find new collaborators, and help to reduce the time to market for commercial products and services.
The UK’s universities and colleges are under few illusions – virtually all face a future in which funds are scarcer and competition is stronger. At the same time, the commercial vendor landscape for most key services is becoming harder to navigate. At Jisc, we are working harder than ever to ensure that a strong collaborative network of advice, expertise and assistance exists to enable institutions and the sector as a whole to obtain best value from investment in technology products, services and enablement.