Thursday, 28 January 2010

IT Services Newsletter #16

Here is the January newsletter. As usual, it only highlights a few things which I hope are of general interest and as an update to the various things we are progressing. What with the adverse weather before and after Christmas, the IT “at risk” period, and the student examinations and assessment period it has once again been an extremely hectic month for everyone. Thank you to everyone for persevering and continuing to “make things happen”.


From the IT Systems Team

A new version of the online module catalogue has been developed, and is ready for launch. The major step forward with this version of the module catalogue is that is draws data dynamically from the SAINT student information system – previously pages were only visible following publication by Academic Administration (ASSU).

Online applications have been developed in eVISION and have been launched. This is the conclusion of a major piece of work which pulled together four strands;
i) Enhanced Undergraduate online application process with standardised forms.
ii) Enhanced Postgraduate online application process.
iii) Online applications for School of Health non-UCAS courses.
iv) A “portal approach” to allow Agents to enter applicants online and track status.

From the IT Support and Telecomms Team
We have another month’s worth of customer feedback and job tracking statistics which are now being published on the IT Services web pages. In December, the total number of jobs completed was 773, with a completion rate before or on target of 89%. There were 560 jobs carried forward to January 2010. This month’s survey results showed 99% of respondents giving a rating of satisfied or very satisfied. A Sample of the comments includes:
“A minor job, very quickly dealt with.”
“I was very happy with the service offered and with the time Tariq took to correct my problem.” “Prompt response and explanation of how to solve the problem.”
“Could not wish for better. Excellent service”
“Prompt response and explanation of how to solve the problem.”
“Friendly, helpful, quick and would not hesitate about calling again”
“Job couldn't be resolved initially, but not through John's fault. John kept on the case and informed us once resolved”
“This job was done almost immediately - couldn't have provided better service!”
“This job was done very efficiently and within a couple of hours of being logged.”
“Went a lot better than expected with very little for me to sort out once the PC was handed over.”

From the IT Infrastructure Team

The IT “At Risk” period involved a considerable number of service changes and improvements which pretty much went according to plan. They involved many in the team, and for some it also involved out of hours and weekend work to minimise service interruptions, which is appreciated.

Proactive Service Monitoring is one of the many more “invisible” things that we do but which deserves recognition. Sue Gregson and colleagues in IT Infrastructure team have been setting up improved service monitoring. This service (called nagios) is now monitoring the external facing email servers. It checks the logs to see if they have stopped responding, enabling us to be proactive about possible service interruptions through improved monitoring and alerting.

General Items

Update on IT Services structure
The IT management team has agreed a significant number of actions in relation to the final stage of implementing our new structure. We have set target dates for completion, assigned responsibilities and identified team members where we need to involve others in the process - including colleagues in HR as we take this forward during February. We were a little delayed by the adverse weather. We will continue to consult with those involved and keep staff informed through the staff announcements process. In the meantime we have received approval to the final version of the new IT Strategy at this week’s Information Systems Committee (ISC) and also presented the draft annual plan for the current session 2009/10.

IT Services Annual Report on the web
Jacqui Cuthbert has kindly fettled the IT Services annual report for last session 2008/09 and uploaded it to the web: it is a menu item here. Jacqui has also created a summary page for students. I know that we have circulated this information already but not in these accessible formats. We have also produced and circulated an updated paper for the Information Systems Committee titled: IT Service Improvements which looks back at some of the activities of the last six months.

Delete Tigers
And finally a contribution from the University Chaplain in a recent email exchange:
The tale is told of a Victorian employee on the Cairo to Khartoum railway who telegraphed the head office: "Station surrounded by lions and tigers." With Victorian fastidiousness, Cairo cabled back: "There are no tigers in Africa." The besieged railway man thought for a moment, then replied "Delete tigers."

Friday, 22 January 2010

Apple iSlate (or whatever)

There has been plenty of column inches in various press and media about the long awaited new product from Apple that which change the world (like Apple TV and the cube - well you can't win them all). We have an e-reader in the house now (Amazon Kindle) and things are begining to get loaded onto it - it's a few dollars here and a few dollars there. I can see iTunes being just the vehicle for that so the revenues may not come from the device but from the content sales. It looks pretty sexy in all the various mock ups so we'll have to see if its as good as all the hype. The latest article I read was here.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Having a bad day?

then think about this kid from haiti (Kiki). In many of today's papers after 7 days in the rubble.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Is the figure £950 Million then?

In yesterday's Sunday Times yet another leading article on the impact of the proposed funding changes on middle class students which reports a £950 Million of cuts to funding. A picture of Peter Mandelson sitting next to the article. Quote: Much of the crisis in university funding was caused when Gordon Brown came to power in 2007 and increased the entitlements to student support of families on middle incomes. All students are entitled to loans to cover tuition fees. In addition, those on family incomes of £25,000 may now claim grants for living costs of £2,906 and loans of £3,497. And there was me blaming the bankers and the worldwide economic recession.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The new shop and the Guardian education section

Wandered over to take a look at the new shop in the Atrium Richmond Building. Its currently called Just:Shop which has no particular meaning but I randomly came up with Joint University and Student Trading as this is the first of a new type of commercial outlet on campus which is jointly owned and run by the SU and University Commercial Services. This is probably a bit of a unique development as the University is staffing and managing and the stock is from NUSL. It sits right next door to the coffee bar/grab and go catering outlet which is run by Sodexho. Anyway, we can buy a Guardian in the "student shop" as it will probably end up being called for 50p which is great - but as someone pointed out to me today, there is no longer a technology section on a Thursday (or maybe we just missed it the last two weeks).

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Lost without a phone?

The mobile phone has been packing up for ages. Think it may have terminally died. So set off to walk to the car which should take about 10 minutes but because of the treacherous black ice took about 20 minutes but at least I didn't fall today. However, a 4x4 came careering down from the farm locked up and having sledged from side to side went straight out onto the main A64. Lucky for everyone that there was nothing coming in either direction and he got away with it. So then thought I need to let the rest of the family know how bad it was to set off in good time and be extra careful - and I didn't want to try and climb back up the hill to tell them. First phone box was a mile away had no glass in the windows and was totally broken. The garage was next and they had no pay phone facility. The next phone box another mile away would not accept money it needed "servicing" (presumably full up and no-one able to empty it?). So tried a reverse charges call and made it through. Note to self: The public telephone system has effectively packed up so don't expect to use it in an emergency, oh yes and always carry a working mobile phone.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Universities: cuts will bring us to our knees

Today's Guardian January 12th 2010. The order to save has now increaesed to £2.5 Billion. I'll see your £600k and raise you £2.5 Billion. I highly recommend many of the comments posted including this priceless one from snowwalker: For someone with a PhD, Gordon Brown has shown a total disregard for the education system that has put him where he is today by making these cuts. He has taken a shit in the public baths after taking his swim.

Seeking a company (to sponsor £100)

The economic and financial climate continues to be very tough. We are also very aware that there are a huge number of extremely worthy charities and agencies seeking support at this time.

Given that context, this is a request on behalf of our son Jacob who is hoping to take part in a two week School Rugby tour to Australia this Summer (July 2010) with the Halifax Crossley Heath First XV. The costs of the trip are to be met by the player however, there is also a School Rugby Development Committee (SRDC) which is subsidising some students who are in a less fortunate financial position so that they are still able to take part in what will probably be a life-changing experience. This is not the type of trip that includes first class hotels and restaurants - every player will be billetted with a local Australian family in each of the three cities that they are touring to, and it is very much about meeting people and experiencing every day life in other places. Each player has been asked to raise a minimum of least £100 in company sponsorship which will be used to help others via the SRDC - the benefit to the company is their name appears on the player's kit, and they are included in all of the school marketing materials for the tour including some local press in both UK and Australia. Jacob is therefore looking for anyone with a suitable contact - we have already written to a number of companies so if you know of a charitable fund within your business that might be willing to help please contact us. There is no limit if more than company is prepared to provide support or they can give more than £100 - all money raised will be used to help others.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Univerisities UK response to HE cuts

The UUK response is here and this morning we were circulated the information note I-2009-127 which provides more detail:

Key points

  • Aggregate public spending on institutions will decrease by 6.6% in 2010/11, from 2009/10. This top-line figure includes a decrease of 1.0% in recurrent funding for teaching, and an increase of 7.2% in recurrent funding for research.
  • The unit of resource for teaching will be reduced in real terms by 4.6% from £4,140 to £3,950, due to £164 million ‘efficiency savings’ announced in April 2009 Budget and £51 million reduction due to additional costs of student support at a time of economic downturn.
  • Capital funding decreased by 56.9% mainly due to £200 million of funding being brought forward from 2010/11 to 2009/10 during last year’s settlement. When adjusted for this movement Capital funding shows a 18.2% reduction from 2009/10
  • Over recruitment has taken place within the sector and as a result the grant for teaching has been adjusted downwards to reflect this. HEFCE has been asked to make appropriate adjustments to the allocations of those institutions who were found to have over recruited in 2009/10, at a rate of £3,700 (the average cost to government of providing student support) per full time undergraduate and PGCE student recruited above the permitted level. Universities UK protested about this decision when it was first announced in January 2009 and pointed out that this was too late in the application cycle for many institutions to curb recruitment.
  • The letter announces just under £400 million of cuts from the 2009/10 allocation to HEFCE comprising £180milion cuts previously announced in the 2009 Budget in April, £83 million following the October 2008 letter from the Secretary of state to HEFCE and a further £135 million (£51 million from the teaching grant and £84 million from capital spending) to meet additional pressures related to higher than expected costs for student support in the current downturn. It is not yet clear how this relates to the £600 million cuts announced in Pre-Budget Report 2009 for the period to 2013.
  • For 2010/11 18,000 additional funded places will be provided, made up of 10,000 FTEs through core funded places and 8,000 FTEs through employer co-funded places. There will be no repeat of the 2009/10 10,000 additional unfunded places in 2010/11. Over recruitment in 2010/11 will again result in a reduction in the HEFCE grant as has occurred this year.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Let's Move To...Morecambe

A bit of a thread going here, here and here. Is Morecambe on the up? I think St Andrews and Winchester at least got a bad rap in 2003

Letter on Saturday 9 Jan 2010: In reply to Darren Evans's question (letters December 12) we moved after reading "Let's Move To....Morecambe (26 July 2008). No regrets. Mike and Yvonne Smalley, Morecambe, Lancashire.

BBC News October 2003: UK's Worst 50 Towns revealed:
1 Hull
2 Cumbernauld
3 Morecambe
4 Hythe
5 Winchester
6 Liverpool
7 St Andrews
8 Bexhill-on-Sea
9 Basingstoke
10 Hackney

Friday, 8 January 2010

Massive Cuts in HE

Massive HE Cuts - how will this play out in 2010?

04/01/2010 Investment & Funding (source: University Business)
The Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has announced that universities must save £135 million in the next academic year, after cutting £518 million from the higher education budget. This included £51 million from teaching grants — on top of £180 million in efficiency savings announced earlier this year.

It will be interesting to follow this story over the next few months. The initial letter is here.

It was £398Million on the BBC December 23rd.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

So begins another year

At the end of last year I decided to take a complete break from a number of things that are IT-related (so far as that is possible in day to day life) including work! So no updates here and no facebook unlike everyone else in our house! Instead a number of other things like (for the first time in years) a visit to the more cerebral Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Luddenden Village. The Christmas and New Year break have been very relaxing and also pretty bad for the waistline with snow and ice limiting the planned daily bike rides to just the two including the now compulsory christmas day amble over Midgley Moor. We got the latest Amazon Kindle over the break and managed to download Wuthering Heights so far. We said the digital camera would never catch on in our house and maybe its the same for the electronic book. I did manage to finally finish Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwells' follow-up to Tipping Point called Blink. Still haven't got beyond half way through zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Best film was definitely Avatar in 3D at the Huddersfield Odeon (as the IMAX was sold out) so would definitely like to watch that again in IMAX format. We also made final arrangements over Christmas for me and Billy to go to our first Grand Prix together in Monaco in May. Now that is definitely something to look forward to. Later today I'm getting snow tires fitted to the Peugeot in the hope that I can finally take it home after almost three weeks parked on the main road - roads willing later today. The best youtube videos showing on Billy's ipod this Christmas were the Tiger Woods "hole in one" (on the golf course not a euphemism) and the Japanese football manager's goal from the touchline. School has been closed this morning and so we got the cascade call at 06:30 as Helen teaches. Billy had already posted on facebook by 06:35 and had three replies by 06:45. Awesome?