3. Core activities

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Research
  • Engagement with Society

3.1. Teaching and Learning

OUCS provides advice and support related to the use of ICT in traditional teaching, learning and research in all disciplines, as well as specific training for IT staff. The former is mainly through its Learning Technologies Group and the latter co-ordinated by the IT Support Staff Service (ITS3 – also covered under ‘Personnel’).

The LTG runs the highly successful IT Learning Programme (225 courses per annum, consisting of 660 individual sessions, with around 13,000 attendees). It also supports and develops the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for the University (WebLearn), tailored to the needs of students and staff. In 2010 OUCS continued to develop our new WebLearn service, with new tools and features in response to user feedback and identified needs in Divisions. This is an ongoing development project, and in 2011 we will continue to offer services in response to new technologies and increasing demands from academic staff. We consolidated and advanced the WebLearn User Group in order to best gather feedback and respond to our growing user community. Our plans for WebLearn in 2011-12 include:

  • module sign-up improvements
  • groups store integration
  • further improve survey tool
  • improve reading list creation and delivery
  • move to Sakai 2.8
  • provision of IMS LTI interface
  • improved interface to podcasts.ox.ac.uk
  • improved guidance site
  • development of site templates
  • further development of mobile phone interface
  • plan to explore possible ‘hybrid’ version of Sakai 2/3 (to implement in 2013/14)
  • develop new training courses for staff who use WebLearn : 'course administration', ‘using Turnitin’, 'assessment tools', 'Surveys' and 'WebLearn on a mobile phone' including more case studies & other documentation/guides.

The LTG promotes and supports the use of online multimedia for learning and teaching, particular highlights of 2010 were the development of a new ‘Make’ programme of creative and digital media training and the success of the ongoing Open Educational Resources (OER) projects - OpenSpires.

The OpenSpires project was a successful initiative to establish a sustainable set of policies and workflows that allows departments from across the University of Oxford to regularly publish high quality open content material for global reuse. In less than a year 140 Oxford academics and visiting speakers donated material to support their subject communities, each contributor signing a Creative Commons licence that allows their material to be promoted for reuse in education world-wide. The material was generated in the life of the project and the subjects covered include politics, economics, globalisation, environmental change, business, research ethics, medicine, physics, English, philosophy, classics, and art history. The project focused on audio-visual recordings and supporting resources as this had an existing cost-effective content creation process. The success of the project was due to a clear workflow process for department support staff to follow which minimised academic support time. Institutional marketing and a clear communication strategy helped the discoverability of the digitised material leading to consistent download figures. Reports of usage by learners encouraged the academics involved and reflected well on the work of the departments.

In 2011 we plan to develop this further, encourage re-use of these materials for teaching, and ensure that the high profile, high value media, assets created by Oxford staff and students can be managed and stored appropriately. We will be responding to the increasing use of mobile and handheld devices by developing appropriate interfaces and services for mobile learning. Three more JISC funded OER projects will report in the spring of 2011: Ripple, Triton and Listening for Impact.

OUCS also provides specific support to IT Support Staff in terms of training via its ITS3 service. This arranges the annual conference and a programme of training opportunities throughout the year. We are noticing increased demand for these courses by local IT officers, and our objectives list the ongoing process of constantly revising these activities to meet changing needs.

OUCS is not directly affected by the size and shape of teaching and learning, as it does not run matriculated courses for students, nor is it involved directly in student recruitment. However, a shift in the size or demographic of the student body will affect the demands on some of the services offered by OUCS (including the VLE and IT training programme) and needs to be reflected in the resources given to OUCS to run its services (see ‘Finances’). As with all our services offered to staff and students we will be ensuring that our practice is inclusive, up-to-date and in line with user needs and that the services can meet any up-turn assuming appropriate funding is found.

Considering our activities since the last five-year plan we would note in particular:

  • The 2010 launch of a new programme of Mac courses in our new Apple Accredited Training Centre and tailored, discipline specific support for digital research skills and managing your online identity. This centre will also be using the NSMS Managed Mac Plaform service (MMP).
  • The 2010 OxTALENT Awards recognised and celebrated innovative use of technology in teaching and were established as a new category in the University Teaching Awards.
  • The success of the LTG in securing funding for new OER projects to continue the work of OpenSpires in focused discipline areas.
  • The pilot of a tailored Research Skills Toolkit developed in conjunction with Bodleian libraries and academic departments.
  • The development, pilot and evaluation of new tools for WebLearn (survey tools for student feedback, Turnitin integration for plagiarism detection and online submission) and the development of a WebLearn front-end for the student enrollment system developed in Social Sciences and MPLS.
  • The continued, extended and growing reach of community collection projects supported by the RunCoCo project.
  • Growing interest from academic departments in supported learning activities on agent-based computer modelling.
  • Now that the functionality and features of WebLearn and Nexus is better understood, a scoping study for possible areas of integration is underway with a view to new projects of work in 2011-12.
  • More IT training courses offered in a flexible mode (especially online and ‘at need’ training) and the development of a marketing strategy to encourage the hire of our training rooms by external users.
  • The LTG hosted 2 summer interns, commissioned a student consultancy projects and hosted one international doctoral researcher.

In recognition of the skills development and learning needs of all members of the University the OUCS training programme, and courses offered by ITS3, provide University staff and students with training in IT literacy and technical skills and how to effectively use C&IT in teaching and research. We promote the use of technology in teaching at Oxford via our user communities, websites, news publications, workshops and events and we provide well equipped teaching and training spaces for use by members of the University and external guests. In 2010 200 people from across the University attended our new series of ‘Make’ courses. We will continue to develop bespoke and discipline specific training courses, and support senior staff in their use of IT for management and decision making. We also seek to support departments and divisions in getting best value for money from the classroom technologies in which they have invested. We provide training and advice in the use of these and in the design of technology enhanced learning spaces, most recently in conjunction with Humanities Divisions in planning the development of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter.

To ensure that we continue to foster and support excellence, innovation and best practice, the LTG also carries out and disseminates research into the latest developments in the use of C&IT in traditional university teaching and learning. This work has continued in 2010 and new projects investigating support environments of learning design and the re-use of OERs will report in 2011.

In 2011 the LTG’s focus will be on ensuring value for money for the University by making special efforts to target services equally across each Division. Particularly we will be exploring ways in which we can support students in developing their graduate employability skills and supporting research staff in maximizing the impact in their work.

In Appendix A we provide a list of our major objectives over the next five years, but with reference to teaching and learning it is worth noting the following:

  • Target development of new tools to support the strategic learning and teaching priorities of divisions, departments and colleges. (e.g. course administration, student assessment, computer modelling in learning and research, creativity and innovation, OERs for cross-silo and interdisciplinary teaching, mobile learning, access and outreach, etc); Target: 2011-2015.
  • Develop support for new WebLearn tools for assessment and feedback.
  • Projects in conjunction with ODIT to develop synergies and workflows between WebLearn and Nexus.
  • Finally migrate users from the old (pre-2007) WebLearn to new WebLearn (based on the Sakai software); switch old WebLearn to read-only mode. Target:2012.
  • Explore possibility of running ‘hybrid’ Sakai 2/3. Target: 2012-2013.
  • Integrate WebLearn with existing student administrative systems where possible and in line with new or replacement systems.2011-2013
  • Promote and support user created content and multimedia through initiatives such as: use of multimedia by lecturers to share research based teaching for maximum impact. Status: this work is ongoing, building on success of podcasting projects and the development of the new WebLearn. Target:2011-15.
  • Design and implement a new, robust infrastructure to support the rapidly growing podcasting service and explore new solutions for capture and storage. Target: 2011
  • Promote the effective use of ICT facilities in the classroom. Target: Ongoing.
  • Expand our e-learning research activity in line with the targets identified in the OUCS research strategy (see below ‘Research’), enabling blue skies work to be done in a cost effective manner as funded projects and sustain current themes of work/projects via new funding and follow up grants. By responding to relevant funding calls from research council and funding bodies and developing research partnerships with academic colleagues and groups in 2011-2015. Target: Ongoing.
  • Contribute to open-source, development and research communities of which we are members by working alongside other universities and appropriate business community engagement In 2011-2015. Target: Ongoing.
  • Provide an appropriate environment for research and to ensure financial sustainability of research within the group and research leadership within the team, e.g. through prjects such as the WWARN (World-Wide Anti-Malarial Netowrk) hosted on NSMS servers, or support for the Linux servers used by Plant Sciences. Target: Ongoing
  • Further develop our programme of training courses and voluntary audit for IT support staff to ensure consistent standard of support across the university. Target: Ongoing.

3.2. Research

OUCS has an established ‘Research Strategy’ (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/research/strategy.xml) outlining the key areas that the department will target in the future for R&D projects (from internal and external funds). It also has a full process to assess new project bids to make sure they are in line with OUCS’s five-year strategy, and a project management methodology. Considered below also is OUCS’s services to research elsewhere in the University. One of the stated objectives in the mission statement of OUCS is to:

‘foster and support excellence, innovation, best practice, and value for money in the use of IT in teaching, learning, and research across the University’

OUCS has a cross-department initiative – the Research Technologies Service (RTS - http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/rts/). The aim of the RTS is to work with other University departments to establish the ICT requirements of their research communities, offers services to research projects across the University (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/rts/rtsservices.xml). These range from project planning, through to offering advice to projects underway, assisting in development, and helping complete an exit strategy. In connection with this, OUCS particularly collaborates with the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) and other relevant University units to investigate the development of tools to support the administration and auditing of research activity.

2010 saw growth in demand for the InfoDev section. This is a team of developers (8 staff) at OUCS operating on a cost recovery basis that can be bought in by University research projects as appropriate. Help ranges from the Web Design Consultancy, through to project management, tools development, text processing, etc.

OUCS also acts as a major bridge with national funding agencies such as HEFCE, JISC, the Research Councils, and seeks sponsorship for major IT projects through the Development Office, OUCS’s own Research Facilitator, and KTPs (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships). OUCS activities and project outputs contribute to relevant research and software development communities. In turn it will seek to inform faculties, departments, and colleges about new funding opportunities; as well as bidding for external grants to cover some of its own new initiatives.

In Appendix A we provide a list of our major new objectives over the next five years, but with reference to research it is worth noting the following:

  • As part of the new Shared Data Centre initiative, and based on the work of two JISC-funded OUCS projects we will be looking to build key services within the SDC – notably providing a hybrid cloud, infrastructure services for use by research projects, and software services (e.g. the ‘Database as a Service’). Target: 2011-12.
  • Further roll-out of the SharePoint service (upgrading to SharePoint 2010) as a facility for research projects following the successful first stage in 2010. Target: 2011.
  • Facilitating seamless research activities through a greater permeation of wireless and increasing interoperability between systems. In particular assisting more systems to be part of the Single Sign-On infrastructure. Wireless roll-out project will complete in 2011. Interoperability initiatives are ongoing.
  • Continue work on advising projects on impact and engagement through IT (see below).
  • Continuing work in crowdsourcing and ‘community collections’ through the RunCoCo project, and advising other units on how to run such. Target: 2011 we will be running a JISC funded project to continue this.

The above are just a sample of specific projects that we will be taking forward. However, we are also aware of other activities that, if funding was available, we would wish to explore such as open data and linking data across sources of information and projects.

3.3. Engagement with Society

OUCS’s primary focus is on supporting the needs of the collegiate University. However, in so doing it offers support to faculties and departments seeking to engage more with the wider society. In 2010 it produced a guide for departments and colleges on how to use IT in assisting with public/business engagement and impact activities (IT, Impact, and Public/Business Engagement - A Brief Guide). We would also note:

  • Assisting projects and services to deliver to mobile devices through the development of Mobile Oxford. Target: 2010-12.
  • Development of Open Educational Resources and podcasting (see ‘Teaching and Learning’).
  • Advising projects on increasing ‘impact’ through new technologies such as the use of social networking tools, podcasts, etc; and assessing and evaluating user needs(see ‘Research’).
  • Leading community collection initiatives which bring the public to University research projects (see ‘Research’).
  • WebLearn (see ‘Teaching and Learning’) is used by UNIQ summer schools and provides ‘pre-arrival’ areas for new students.

3.4. Enabling strategies

  • Personnel
  • Admissions and Access
  • Academic and Student Services
  • Space
  • Finance
  • Governance and planning

3.4.1. Personnel

OUCS continues to refine its personnel procedures and career progression. Two documents are maintained for staff outlining career progression and decision-making at OUCS, and in 2010 we added a further document on management training. OUCS staff are also encouraged to join internal SIGs (Special Interest Groups), new teams, and are trained in project management methodology. Through its IT Support Staff Service it also seeks to promote career development of the dispersed IT Staff. The OUCS ITLP training programme offers opportunities for skills development and IT training needs analysis to the personnel in the collegiate university. Furthermore our continued emphasis on staff reviews shows our commitment to developing our staff (though like the rest of the University we were kept to a freeze on merit awards in 2010). Specific targets:

  • Continue to update our internal staff information pages, and handbook. Ongoing.
  • Run regular training sessions for new managers. Ongoing.

OUCS has made strenuous efforts to keep its FTE and headcount under control, though the advent of the new NEXUS service led to an increase by 3 FTE. OUCS also has a duty, through its IT Support Staff Services, to assist in the career development of IT Staff across the University. To this end specific targets are:

  • Increase attendance at ICTF Conference to 400 with at least 300 from Oxford. Host at least two seminars per term given by non-UAS IT Support Staff. Target: Summer 2012.
  • Launch ITSS mentoring system and aim for at least 10 ITSS being mentored by other ITSS at any one time. Increase attendance at termly ITSS induction to 20 per session. Target: 2012-2013.

3.4.2. Admissions and Access

Although OUCS is not directly involved in this activity as it does not deal with admissions, nor is it involved in student recruitment, it does provide services which assist in these activities. In addition, as noted above any major change in the size or demographic of the student body will possibly affect the demands on some of the services offered by OUCS. For example, increased recruitment of international students will necessitate seamless access to the Universities from increasing numbers of remote sites. Moreover, changes to the admissions process and recording of student data also impacts on our services.

As noted earlier (‘Teaching and Learning’), WebLearn is increasingly bringing together tools that will support teaching and OUCS is proactively working with Student Systems, participating in the ongoing review of student administration and services. OUCS has also helped the dissemination and promotion of material to do with admissions in such initiatives as iTunes U; and is now offering a WebEx videoconferencing service, partly driven by the needs of the admissions interviewing process.

3.4.3. Academic and Student Services

This section has primary relevance to OUCS as it focuses on service provision, and the underlying infrastructure, though as will be obvious OUCS has contributions to make to all the above categories. We have already noted earlier that a key priority of OUCS is to maintain its core service provision and to expand this (as directed by the Divisions and if resourced accordingly). Here we look at specific targets for the next five years.

OUCS is currently undertaking a series of major projects that will directly enhance the services offered to staff and students – most of these involving expertise drawn from across the department. These are integrated with the plans set out by the Office for the Director of IT. The most notable of these is the new Shared Data Centre, which will provide a primary data centre for our core services, and a space to locate services from other departments. This is a state-of-the-art facility that should be open to take in services from elsewhere in the summer of 2011. More importantly it will overlap with a refurbishment of the existing data centre at Banbury Road to provide dual site resilience. With specific reference to this area we will be:

  • Issuing the ITT for the feasibility study to refurbish the existing data centre. Target: 2011.
  • Providing resilience for core OUCS services as defined by the Divisions. A business case will be submitted to PICT in Hilary 2011 to put selected OUCS services (approved by the Divisions) on a more resilient footing. Target: 2011-12.
  • Offering a range of new infrastructure and software services from the Shared Data Centre. The fit-out phase of the new shared data centre commences in Jan 2011 and is designed to bring the data centre into operation. The shared data centre, managed by OUCS, is an opportunity to offer world-class shared infrastructure services. Therefore, the programme of projects associated with the data centre includes the deployment of high availability virtual infrastructure services as well as co-location (where no other option is possible). It is likely that the shared infrastructure services project is augmented by funding from the University Modernisation Fund to deploy high availability private/hybrid cloud services.

In addition to these major initiatives OUCS also, on an ongoing basis:

Assists in the implementation and review of the University’s ICT Strategy Ongoing through OUCS’s participation in PICT and liaising with ODIT. Awaiting further development with ICT Governance in 2011.
Contributes towards the development of the ‘enhanced computing environment’. OUCS is assisting in this project (aka the ECE project) which is led by a team separate to OUCS, the ICT Support Team. As well as attending board meetings and representing OUCS’s needs, NSMS is developing the Managed Mac Platform (MMP).
Develops and supports high quality infrastructure services (especially the network backbone, e-mail, web servers, backup, security, and training) Ongoing – see specific objectives below.
Develops new services Ongoing – see specific objectives below.
Improves network connection Ongoing – see specific objectives below.
Works on wireless and mobile access Ongoing - see specific objectives below.
Works in a federated environment with the distributed IT Staff Ongoing. OUCS assists with the ICT Forum, and provides direct support services for the devolved IT Staff in the University.
Fosters effective use of IT in all disciplines Ongoing, especially through our Learning Technologies Group and Research Technologies Service.
Provides training and tailored courses Ongoing. OUCS courses currently attract over 13,000 attendees per annum.
Supports and promotes the Virtual Learning Environment Ongoing. WebLearn is now an established service having migrated to the new SAKAI platform, and is being run without any additional recurrent costs (due to staff redeployment). It is also looking at integration with the Nexus suite.
Develops reusable and centralised e-learning resources Ongoing (see ‘Teaching and Learning’ above).
Promotes research e-infrastructure (VREs, escience, etc) Ongoing (see ‘Research’ above).

Considering our activities since the last five-year plan we would highlight, in particular, the following achievements (see also the previous points in ‘Teaching and Learning’ and ‘Research’, and OUCS’s Annual Report 2009-2010):

  • Developed and launched the Nexus email service. Achieved within budget and the deadlines set.
  • Rolled-out of the Nexus SharePoint service.
  • Major upgrade to HFS moving it to new DB2 infrastructure.
  • Relocation of the Bodleian MDX room.
  • Launched a trialled WebEx service, now running as a full cost recovery service.
  • Rolled-out the Wake-on-Lan service to assist faculties and departments to reduce energy costs, now leading to new project with additional requirements for energy efficiency.
  • Major project assisting BSP and UAS on a virtualised infrastructure.
  • Planned for the new Shared Data Centre.
  • Produced a major report for the Humanities Division on its IT needs.
  • Offered better support for web site development. OUCS’s Web Design Consultancy continues to attract more faculties, colleges, and research projects.
  • Provided a service payment service online for the Online Shop and other services.
  • Trialled an integration of the Single Sign-On with the Google Search Appliance to allow indexing of secure content;
  • Initiated the Information Security Best Practice project.

These are but some of the achievements over the year and are presented here as a representative sample showing the diversity of major new launches, and service developments.

In terms of underlying trends we constantly analyse user data and feedback and have observed: increasing demands for mobile support and wireless technology; greater demands on the network; increasing reliance on the HFS by departments and units for back-up and archiving; need to consider carbon-impact of IT projects and green issues; virtualisation; increasing penetration of Macs resulting in more support demands; and a need to look more proactively at service oriented architecture for joining up core systems and services. 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 our telecoms service, and we are gradually rolling out such initiatives as Voice over IP.

Although our ability to develop existing services or launch new ones is extremely limited, without any development or enhancement budget, we attempt to maintain some flexibility through our pay-per-use service – NSMS. This invaluable resource allows us to offer new services more quickly, albeit on a chargeable basis. It runs on a break-even concept and is now being seen as a shared service for departments and units, supporting key infrastructure (e.g. BSP’s Virtual Infrastructure), key support facilities (e.g. acting as the IT support for some faculties), and developing new innovative projects (e.g. the Mac Managed Platform).

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to achieve a series of new major objectives listed in Appendix A


These will be the responsibility of several groups across the department, and many will be in conjunction with ODIT. In addition we have also identified those projects which would cost in excess of £50k (some already approved, others, should the bid go ahead, would be assessed by the Divisions first). That list is attempting to show major initiatives that would have far reaching effects across the collegiate University (financially and strategically) but we also have several other objectives to improve or develop our services. These include:

  • Completion of the Information Services Best Practice project, aimed at providing a set of policies on information security, a set of guidelines, and a toolkit. This will be made available across Oxford to IT officers, who will also be assisted in implementing the recommendations. Target: Summer 2011. As part of this we will also investigate the possibilities of a full-disk encryption service.
  • Nexus upgrade – Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010. Funding for the upgrades to Nexus was agreed by PICT in June 2010. The combined Nexus 2010 upgrade project runs until 31 July 2011 with an upgrade to SharePoint 2010 expected at the beginning of Hilary Term 2011 and an upgrade to Exchange 2010 expected in Trinity term 2011. Target: 2011.
  • Complete the Groupstore project. This has completed its initial implementation. The project is partly driven by use cases relating to the sharing of groups data between WebLearn and Nexus, as well as use cases for groups sharing with local department/college systems. The next phase of the project, to implement the use cases, is scheduled for Hilary Term 2011. The WebLearn-Nexus integration project includes a workpackage intended to address groups data; the identification of early adopters within departments and colleges is ongoing. Target: 2011.
  • Investigate an improved maillist service. A user requirements analysis was undertaken through a student internship in Summer 2010, together with some limited proof-of-concept deployment with solutions likely to meet core requirements. The next phase, carried forward, is to test shortlisted solutions against requirements (with user group validation). Target: 2011.
  • Develop the strategic direction for OUCS’ web hosting activities, and generate an implementation project for the way forward. Target: 2011.
  • Complete integration of Nexus/Weblearn project. This will include the roll-out of SharePoint beyond pilot stage. PRAC also approved funding for the WebLearn-Nexus Integration Project in June 2010. The project, running until Mar 2012, is scoping and implementing mechanisms (including better support documentation) for users to move more seamlessly between the two services for selected activities (using calendars, document sharing, and groups management in particular). Target: 2013.
  • Assess demand for a version-controlled repository for software code. Target: 2011.
  • Completion of the mobile service phase I development to establish robust service on VM infrastructure integrated (as appropriate) with SSO and WebLearn, and considering phase II. Target: Summer 2011.
  • Roll-out online payment systems to other services, e.g. course booking. Target: end of 2011.
  • Promote and expand the Apple repair centre work (taking into account increased Mac penetration), and develop collaboration with Equinox. Launching loan machine service in Hilary 2011 and upgrading logging and tracking processes.
  • Develop our work on a central CMS service to supplement existing work of the Web Design Consultancy.
  • Develop our work, in collaboration with other bodies (e.g. the Bodleian) in the field of open and linked data, data standards, and visualization. In particular establish supported service for data.ox.ac.uk for institutional linked data. Target: December 2011.
  • Investigate integrating the Google Search Appliance with SharePoint (depends on deployment of SharePoint 2010).
  • Move OUCS web architecture to new software. Target: December 2011.
  • Put all printing services, in offices and in public areas, under new accounting and management system. Target: September 2011.
  • Provide software and training for help desk staff to remotely observe user PCs and provide more efficient assistance. Target: Summer 2011.
  • Investigate moving much of OUCS web site static content into more specific knowledge-management system, with read/write access for all ITSS; investigate a central incident-tracking system for collegiate university to make IT support more seamless. Target: 2012.
  • Investigate how to make scalable software developed within OUCS meet OSS Watch guidelines for good practice in sustainability. Target: 2012.

We are also considering, in some detail:

  • How we can achieve greater energy efficiencies within the department, and reduce our carbon impact. This is ranging from power efficiency initiatives to procurement policies. We also seek to advise others on this.
  • Linked to the above we will be undergoing an examination of the possible benefits arising from the virtualisation of our services, where possible, particularly with reference to the opportunity offered to us by the new Shared Data Centre.

It is becoming increasingly the case that many of the projects and objectives we undertake nowadays are collaborative efforts with OULS, UAS, BSP, ICT ST, and local units. We envisage that this will continue to grow as all central units seek to rationalise costs and integrate systems.

3.4.4. Space

The problem that we have invariably had to face is how do we operate a modern cutting edge technological service within the confines of Grade II listed buildings originally designed as domestic accommodation. Nevertheless, we are committed to providing the most cost effective service in a manner that complies both the latest University sustainability policies as well as statutory requirements on accessibility. Some space has been freed up recently by the relocation of the ICT ST to Blue Boar Court.

In the longer term we will be carrying out works to ensure that we continue to fulfil these requirements which are to include:

  • The electrical rewiring of the offices, in association with the Estates Department
  • The completion of the new Shared Data Centre
  • The completion of our own newly refurbished Date Centre.

3.4.5. Finance

OUCS’s finance and administration is in full compliance with University Finance Regulations and have no outstanding audit issues. The 2010 Statement of Compliance was completed without further recommendations. Quarterly management accounts comparing and commenting on significant variations from budget are submitted via the ASUC Divisional accounting structure together with updated year end forecasts, and we also now receive monthly statements to compare projected income/expenditure with actuals. A budget submission process is also used to approve the Annual Budget. For the future, we hope to design & implement a new asset register with work starting on this within the 2010/11 financial year.

The current financial climate which the Higher Education Sector is currently faced with is reflected in the need for OUCS to maintain services but at maximum cost efficiency. Whilst planning the first phase of these financial cutbacks care has been taken not to reduce our service levels but to rely on cost cutting through the Oxford Mobility Incentive Scheme and the re-organisation of some aspects of our operations. Whilst service considerations are to the fore of our plans for any future budget reductions there will, by necessity, be a need to reconsider what services we can continue to offer on a reducing budget.

In 2010-11 the 123 model was trialled and will be used fully in 2011 onwards. OUCS provided input to the development of the formulae used and usage figures for the drivers. In 2010 we also ran and completed a small JISC-funded project that applied TRAC costing models to IT services.

3.4.6. Governance

OUCS is governed by its Management sub-committee which has full divisional and collegiate representation. This in turn reports directly to the ICT Sub-committee of the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC). The latter is a single point of governance for ICT across the collegiate University, and the principal advisory body to PRAC and Council and other University bodies on all aspects of ICT. It determines a strategy and policy framework for the collegiate University, and reviews the scale, quality and cost effectiveness of the services offered directly to users by the Oxford University Computing Services. It is establishing an ICT framework to enable centrally and locally provided services to work together efficiently, reliably and cost effectively.

In 2011 this is due to change and OUCS will become part of UAS, coming under the jurisdiction of the Registrar. It is not clear, at the time of writing, how this will affect other reporting lines. However, this move will allow OUCS to work more closely with other sections in UAS, notably BSP. As part of these moves PICT itself will also be reconstituted.

3.5. Risk Management Strategy:

As with all departments and divisions OUCS prepares and maintains an annual risk register. This used to form part of the ASUC risk register, but in future will be part of UAS’s (details to be confirmed). However, with reference to this plan the risk to the University of not completing or achieving most of the above mainly falls under two categories. First our IT infrastructure will be compromised, especially with relation to business continuity; but also in terms of the facilities we can offer to the staff and students. Oxford would begin to seriously fall behind its competitors in terms of what it can support. Second, picking up on a common theme throughout this plan, unless the critical funding issues identified by the SFWG meetings are tackled then key services will be put at risk.

OUCS has an established set of disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans which are considered each year. In particular we have:

  • DR plans for all our services.
  • Dependency lists and priority list for restarts.
  • A documented and tested communication plan in the event of an emergency, which utilises a series of tools and technologies.
  • An annual policy of desktop testing our emergency communication plans, and DR policies.

We have also begun to adopt a dual-site resilience for core services (notably Nexus) and with the advent of the SDC this will be developed further.

3.6. Key Performance Indicators:

OUCS now has an established process whereby its performance is assessed by the Divisions (via the OUCS Management Sub-committee), and its plans are aligned to their demands. This includes:

  • review of our Annual Report – a reflective look showing how we performed in the previous AY;
  • review of OUCS’s financial position;
  • review of our SLDs and costs associated with the services;
  • making recommendations to PICT and then PRAC re the budget for OUCS for the following AY notably for new services;
  • setting of our five-year plan (this document) outlining our objectives based on the needs of the divisions;
  • reviewing any major security incidents.

At our termly meeting we discuss these with our Management Committee and assess against spend, etc. Any benchmarking information we have is also presented. A fuller analysis is undertaken at the end of each year.

Up: Contents Previous: 2. The department’s strategic challenges 2011 to 2015(including the impact of reductions in resources): Next: Major New Objectives, 2011-2015


It is also important to cross-refer this section with other key areas in this five-year plan, notably our strategies to facilitate research, and teaching and learning.