Jisc mergers boost digital and data technology offer to UK universities and colleges
Anyone with an interest in tertiary education will have noticed there has been a succession of mergers involving Jisc over the past five years.
Well-known organisations and services such as Eduserv, OpenAthens, Chest, the Higher Education Careers Service Unit, Prospects, Hedd, and most recently in October 2022, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, have all joined the Jisc family.
This has hugely expanded Jisc’s remit and more than doubled our staff; all this done while we responded to an explosion in the use of digital kick-started by the pandemic.
So, we’ve been busy! So busy, that I don’t think Jisc has properly explained the benefits that has come from this consolidation.
All the mergers, apart from Eduserv, stemmed from the government-commissioned 2017 Bell review, which recommended that the myriad UK higher education agencies should be brought together to bring efficiencies and benefits to the sector.
Our mergers have created a much larger pool of expertise and resources. Jisc is now able to provide its members with a single point of contact for a far greater range of technical services and support functions.
The national research and education network, Janet, will always be at the heart of what we do. Other key ‘original’ Jisc functions, including cyber security, digital resources, infrastructure, licensing, advice and guidance and collective negotiations have been augmented by the mergers.
We also have specialist innovation staff who explore how emerging tech such as artificial intelligence can be harnessed to benefit staff and students alike.
When, in 2019, edtech not-for-profit Eduserv joined Jisc, it added single sign-on service OpenAthens, software licensing service Chest, and a range of cloud services to the Jisc portfolio.
A merger with HECSU followed two years later, forming a new student services arm. This move enriched Jisc’s proposition for HE members through Prospects, the digital careers information and guidance service, as well as labour market data expertise and degree verification.
Student outcomes and employability are now central to Jisc’s strategy. This means HE members are benefiting from access to a suite of world-class products and services such as the postgraduate recruitment platform.
Merging with Jisc has enabled Prospects to retain its charitable aim to offer free tools that support students and graduates through their career journey.
“The Hedd degree fraud operation has shut down nearly 90 bogus institutions’
It has also enabled the continuation of the Hedd degree fraud operation, which has shut down nearly 90 bogus institutions and is continuing to safeguard the reputation of a UK degree and the investment made by genuine students.
Prospects’ Hedd qualification verification services can also save universities money in terms of staff time, while data and analytical tools enhance understanding of students’ career decision-making and employment chances.
HESA was folded into Jisc most recently, after we welcomed HESA’s skilled data analytics team in 2019. All 171 remaining HESA staff joined us in October 2022 and we created a new data collection and statistics directorate headed by former HESA CEO, Rob Phillpotts.
Joining Jisc and HESA creates a single organisation able to deliver the sector’s increasing data and digital needs. Following consultation with the sector and the agreement of the Department for Education, HESA’s legal status as the sector’s designated data body for England transferred to Jisc. This means the responsibility for collecting and publishing statutory data for all higher education providers across the UK now lies with Jisc.
This merger occurred while the two organisations were already jointly delivering the Data Futures program. Data Futures will bring significant benefits for the HE sector’s use of data by collecting student data from HE providers twice a year; a mid-year point, as well as at the end of the year, starting in academic year 2024/25.
Jisc plans to build on the Data Futures program to further develop the use of data and the data services we offer.
So, as we start 2023, Jisc is in a strong position to develop and expand its offer to education and research institutions.
About the author: Heidi Fraser-Krauss is CEO of Jisc.
Jisc’s vision is for the UK to be a world leader in technology for education and research. It owns and operates the super-fast national research and education network, Janet, with built-in cyber security protection. Jisc also provides technology solutions for members (colleges, universities and research centres) and customers (public sector bodies), helps members save time and money by negotiating sector-wide deals and provides advice and practical assistance on digital technology. Jisc is funded by the UK higher and further education and research funding bodies and member institutions.
For more information, contact [email protected], or 07918 562869. Alternatively, use [email protected] or 07443 983571.
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