As agreed at the Colleges' ICT Committee on 10th May 2011, edited Sept 2012 to reflect IT Services merger

The University of Oxford has an agreed and devolved IT Support model whereby support for end users should be provided in the first instance by IT staff employed by Colleges or (non-central) Departments. Some units may use contractors rather than employees to provide IT support. Practice inevitably varies around the Collegiate University so this note is intended to provide guidelines on what is and is not expected of College IT departments and how they should interact with the Helpcentre and Helpdesk at IT Services on Banbury Road. Reference to College in this document should also be taken to include Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).

IT Services has a standard ‘boilerplate’ text that goes on all user-facing documents that reads: ‘ Your primary support for IT issues comes from your department or college. Your first port of call for questions or advice should always be your local IT support. ’ And this should indeed be the guiding principle for College IT Staff.

It should always be borne in mind that there are some ‘local’ College IT matters where IT Services simply cannot help because it doesn't have the access or knowledge. Sending users to the Helpcentre in such situations creates a bad user experience and a bad impression of the College and University to that user and therefore should be avoided.

The IT Services Helpcentre at Banbury Road should be considered as a backup to College IT Support rather than an alternative to appropriate and sufficient IT Support resource provision from the College. College practices that have been seen that might be considered acceptable include (but are not limited to):

  • College IT Support Staff communicating user issues to IT Services after their own resources and/or technical knowledge have been exhausted. This might be called second-line support but Colleges should be aware that helpdesk staff may have no more technical knowledge on a particular issue than College IT Staff or contractors. As a consequence College IT Staff should be prepared to be patient as Helpcentre staff seek advice and solutions from central service providers both within IT Services and beyond. IT Support Staff may alternatively use the IT Support Staff Services section of IT Services in this situation.
  • Referring users to the IT Services Banbury Road Helpcentre at times of unplanned College IT staff absence (e.g. sickness) but noting as above that IT Services cannot deal with some College issues such as helping users with usernames/passwords on College-provided IT systems and helping users to get their own IT equipment connected to the College network.
  • Referring users to the Banbury Road IT Services Helpcentre at times when other short-term work (perhaps server or network refreshes) mean that the College IT Support is temporarily at limited availability. Colleges should note that at naturally busy times, such as the start of Michaelmas Term, the IT Services Helpdesk at Banbury Road is extremely busy and that referring customers there at that time of year will quite possibly result in an extremely long wait.
  • Referring users to the IT Services Banbury Road Helpdesk for matters that need IT Services action (e.g. restoring deleted emails from Nexus or help recovering an HFS backup).
  • Referring users to the IT Services Banbury Road Helpdesk for chargeable services such as backup, reinstall and restore; or hardware repair services (including Apple warranty and non-warranty repairs).

College practices that have been seen that might be considered unacceptable include (but are not limited to):

  • Declaring that the College IT operation does not support a certain type of computer or operating system (e.g. Macs) and referring all that support to the IT Services Helpcentre. The helpcentre is willing in the short term to support users of very specific systems if they are rare or the technology is very new. It is, however, expected that College IT staff will undergo suitable training in due course so as to gain the ability to support such computers or operating systems.
  • Referring a large proportion of IT support directly to IT Services instead of providing adequate resources to the College IT support operation.
  • Adopting a college policy of not supporting student-owned computers and referring all support for those to IT Services.
  • Using the IT Services Banbury Road Helpcentre to cover periods of extended (> 1-2 weeks) planned College staff absence. Such events could be covered by reciprocal agreements with other Colleges or by (temporarily) hiring other support, perhaps including graduate students and/or contractors.
  • Referring users to the Helpdesk for tasks that local IT Staff can easily execute themselves such as issuing rescue or activation codes or amending email routings.

In any cases of doubt, College IT Staff are encouraged to contact IT Support Staff Services ITS3@it.ox.ac.uk or the Helpcentre Manager (Helpcentre.manager@oucs.ox.ac.uk) for guidance and advice.