11 May 2021

Event Recap: Cloud Computing and Higher Education

Key insights from our recent Cloud Monthly Webinar exploring the role of cloud in universities and colleges.

April’s Cloud Monthly Webinar looked to explore the adoption of cloud computing by higher education institutions to open access, innovation and to build world leading educational facilities in the UK.

A panel of industry experts came together to share their insight and experience of adoption. Speakers included:

  • Alaa Owaineh, Lead Analyst, Digital Utilities, GlobalData
  • Malcolm Allerton, CIO & Executive Director, University of Southampton
  • Sudhir Nair, Associate Vice President, UK & Ireland, Telecom, Media & Technology Business, HCL Technologies
  • Dr Christopher Royles, Field CTO, Cloudera

Cloud Monthly Webinar April 2021

Cloud Computing and Higher Education

Alaa Owaineh from Global Data set the scene with an overview of procurement trends and opportunities across the public sector, including a look at the impact of the pandemic on the Education sector. Key themes included significant financial losses; uncertainty of student numbers and uncertainty of research funding (in the case of the latter, while Government support has been available, it’s not yet clear if this will be enough). However, there is an opportunity for cloud providers to help universities to solve and address some of these problems, for example, cloud could help in terms of trading CapEx for OpEx.

Indeed, the value of the cloud market in education has experienced considerable growth, mostly driven by Higher Education institutions; and this is expected to continue as focus increased on the student experience, including the facilitation of wellbeing through tech.

Mal Allerton, CISO at the University of Southampton (UoS) then took the audience through his organisation’s experience of cloud adoption as well as noting some key observations around the Higher Education technology market. Cloud services have enabled UoS to:

  • improve organisational agility;
  • enhance the student experience;
  • achieve greater collaboration (for example via MS Teams);
  • achieve seamless blended learning;
  • increase the pace of digital adoption;
  • influence organisational restructure; and
  • achieve greater scalability – the ability to connect with students all over the world being invaluable.

Without cloud investment, UoS wouldn’t have been able to pivot so quickly in response to Covid. Looking at what’s next in its cloud journey, Shared Services is creeping firmly onto the agenda of the Russell Group, which are research intensive universities; and it will be exploring hybrid solutions utilising cloud storage and compute as well as on site.

The good news for cloud vendors is that big transformational budgets are being made available for 2021/2022, with a lot of money being siphoned away from traditional projects such as buildings, towards technology. And the Higher Education ecosystem offers opportunity for those who understand its unique aspects to become true strategic and operational partners of universities and colleges, not just suppliers.

Indeed, Sudhir Nair, from UoS’s partner HCL Technologies further emphasised the importance of this unique nature by highlighting that HCL views Higher Education differently to other public sector organisations, aligning it rather with their consumer business. Millennial students come with a very different set of expectations so HCL looks at delivering an end-to end-experience – from when a student registers for a university, managing their information across learning platforms and campus life, as well as ensuring active collaboration and general wellbeing (benefiting staff too).

Dr Chris Royles then talked attendees through how his organisation Cloudera is helping universities around the world to drive innovation and support their research and skills portfolio. Here we took a specific look at data lifecycle and the types of data that universities can use (including monitoring what books students check out of the library, or the purchases they make on campus) to enrich the student experience and help staff to support students better; as well as the potential of embedding machine learning to automate certain processes.

In capturing all campus data on one platform, higher education institutions have the ability to identify, attract and maintain commitment from students; identify gaps in student and teaching performance; manage grants; understand successful students to drive retention; engage better remotely; manage facilities; exploit new technologies quickly and easily; and to personalise the student experience.

Catch up on the full presentations here.

Interested in Higher Edcuation tech?

techUK will be continuing to explore Higher Education technology and how we can support our members in this space over the coming months. If you would be interest in joining a small working group to steer our work in this sector, please contact Jill Broom ([email protected]).

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Programme Manager, Technology and Innovation, techUK

Jill Broom

Programme Manager, Cyber Security & Central Government, techUK