11. Meeting Strategic Objectives VI: Academic and Student Services

This section is of direct relevance to OUCS as it focuses on service provision. In particular §101 and §102 outline some key objectives for OUCS:
  • assist in the development of the University’s ICT Strategy
  • contributing towards the establishment of a common computing environment (now termed the ‘enhanced computing environment’)
  • develop and support high quality infrastructure services (especially the network backbone, e-mail, web servers, backup, security, and training)
  • developing new services
  • improving network connection
  • working on wireless and mobile access
  • working in a federated environment with the distributed IT Staff
  • foster effective use of IT in all disciplines
  • provide training and tailored courses
  • support and promote the Virtual Learning Environment
  • develop reusable and centralised e-learning resources
  • promote research e-infrastructure (VREs, escience, etc)

In addition there is an overriding need to make sure that developments in these areas, and others, meet the needs of academics and students (§104, §105, and IIf), and form a coherent structure. This is also a major area of concern for the ICT Strategy.

Undoubtedly over the next five years the landscape of IT will change dramatically. As noted in our Vision Statement we constantly strive to be aware of the changes in underlying technology, the changes in the demographic of the user, and the changes in the patterns of use. We note, for example, the almost ubiquitous rise in IT literacy across staff and students, and at the same time an integration of computing technology and access to information across a range of easy-to-use devices (such as the new generation of mobile phones). OUCS will aim to be in a position to tap into these new opportunities, but also recognises that this may shift the balance of IT support from user help to areas such as integration and interoperability.

In terms of underlying hardware we recognise the demands for wireless technology, roving access, and mobile learning. With the advent of the FroDo project, and the new network potential coming with SuperJanet 5 the University is in an excellent position to take forward all of this provided sufficient funding is made available. Changes are also taking place with telecoms, and OUCS (now in charge of Telecoms) is monitoring the progress of such initiatives as Voice over IP.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to do the following(It is also important to cross-refer this section with other key areas in this five-year plan, notably our strategies to facilitate research (section 6), and teaching and learning (section 7).). These will be the responsibility of several groups across the department; notably the Information and Support Group which contains the Information Systems team, Registration Services, the Research Technologies Services, and the IT Support Staff Service; the Infrastructure Group which includes Networks, System Development, Telecoms, and the HFS; our Technical Support Services, which contains our Network Systems and Services Team (NSMS); and our Learning Technologies Group, in charge of training, the VLE, and e-learning research and development..

All of the following specifically target VIc and VId of the Corporate Plan.

Information Support

[See also section 6 ‘Research’]

  • Create a shared information environment for use of IT Support Staff by setting up a content management system for common user documentation. In addition we will enhance services available for distributed ITSS by developing a "fast-track" help line and co-ordination of specialist training opportunities, as well as developing secure delegated services aiming to enhance the facilities available to IT support staff across the collegiate university. Target date: March 06.
  • Establish and promote a service for creating, publishing and aggregating RSS news items across the university, including the description of event data (also applicable to supporting research — I). Target date: Feb 06.
  • Explain, promote, and support good practice in web site management for the university.
  • Develop a coherent Information Strategy across the department (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/oucsweb/).
  • Promote TEI XML markup as a preferred archival format for digital texts in the university, by providing support, training and tools.
  • Introduce LINUX desktop systems into the help centre. Target date: January 07.
  • Expand (charged) PC hardware repair and maintenance service for commonly used platforms including laptops. Target date: August 06.


  • Upgrade the University’s backbone network. Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £1m(Further details of some of the expenditure plans are also contained in Appendix A: OUCS 5-Year Plan: Major Capital Investments. ).
  • Review cabling, and update or replace existing cables and ducts. Target date: 07. Estimated Cost: £0.6m.
  • Following on from the success of the FroDo project, continue to promote guidelines for the Oxford Wireless service (OWL).
  • Seek University funding to promote the use of mobile access, via handheld devices and wireless technology. Target date: 06. Estimated cost: £1.5m set-up; £200k recurrent cost.
  • Investigate and support the introduction of Internet Protocol Version 6.
  • Plan and migrate University telecom systems to Voice over IP (VoIP). Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £2-3m.
  • Increase the storage and backup for the Herald mail facilities. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £400k.
  • Continue to develop and roll-out facilities authentication and authorisation services. Particular emphasis here is on the promotion of the Single Sign-on system, and development of registry services in collaboration with MIS.
  • Major upgrade to the Hierarchical File Server (HFS) is urgently required. This would involve replacing processors, tape media, and tape drives. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £450k.
    - To ensure resilience and security of the data on the HFS a second tape library is needed in a separate location. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £500k.
    - Finally the automated tape library, now ten years old, will need to be replaced in the future. Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £300k.
  • Departmental backup servers might need to be unified. Target date: 07/08. Estimated cost: £50-100k per unit.
  • The University will need to invest in a filestore and repository system. OUCS has reviewed the possibilities including for example a SAN-based system. Target date: 06/07. Estimated cost: £800k, plus £100k recurrent costs.

Technology Support Services

  • Via our NSMS team, we will continue to provide IT Consultancy and Managed Services on a chargeable basis covering the following support areas:
    • Auditing of IT facilities and requirements
    • Consultancy on IT services and support
    • Windows, Linux, Apple and NetWare server management services
    • Firewall management services
    • Webserver management services
    • Research project support service

Learning Technologies

[See also section 7 — ‘Learning and Teaching’]

  • Continue the development of the VLE system, bringing in new tools on a modular basis, and secure its long term funding. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £150k recurrent.
  • Link the VLE to institutional-wide services wherever possible, such as ISIDORE.
  • Explore the potential of reusable learning objects.
  • Develop a Training Needs Analysis tool to point people at appropriate courses. Target date: 07.
  • Provide primer material to allow user awareness prior to attending courses. Target date: 07.

General Strategy

  • Assist in the development of the Enhanced Computing Environment by offering appropriate support to the new ICT Team.
  • Assist in the development of the University’s ICT Strategy by nominating representatives for the associated Work tasks and contributing advice when asked.

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