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'External experts' replace Oracle on £13.2m Uni IT project

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Oracle consultants implementing a £13.2m University of Glasgow student IT project have been asked to leave campus, replaced with a team of unnamed "bespoke" external experts.

A university spokesperson told The Reg that the university decided its needs would best be served by continuing its long-running Student Lifecycle Project with the external experts.

Oracle Consulting Services is now simply "working alongside" the on-campus university team. OCS had delivered the project’s first phase.

“Having worked with Oracle UK Consulting to deliver the first phase of the project's implementation, Oracle and the university have decided that the university’s needs will be best served by continuing the project with a bespoke team of external experts,” the spokesperson said.

The university wouldn't say why Oracle had been removed or who the experts are, despite requests by The Reg lodged under the Scottish Freedom of Information Act.

The university claimed disclosure of such information would or could prejudice the conduct of its public affairs.

Asked – through an FOI request – who is implementing the multi-million IT project and how they were recruited, the university simply said the unnamed people or company had been hired using the standard university Jobs at Glasgow vacancies site.

This is the second major switch to the university's ambitious SLP. Oracle stepped in after previous contractor Atos Origin – a specialist in integration of SAP and Oracle systems – was apparently overwhelmed.

Oracle's job was to implement its own Oracle Campus Solutions product, which is from PeopleSoft. It's used at universities in the US and UK.

Executives from Oracle pitched representatives of Glasgow University at a special meeting held on 1 December 2008 on how it would implement its software.

Apparently, OCS was keen to establish its strengths in the UK higher-education market and saw the University of Glasgow as a prestigious win.

According to the minutes of that December meeting hunted down by The Reg, Glasgow "would, therefore, be a key implementation for Oracle Consulting. It would give real momentum in this new strategic direction." The name of those from OCS who attended the meeting have been redacted from the minutes.

Atos Origin had led the project but "Increased demand from new and potential customers and from those existing customers on the old Oracle platform meant that Oracle Consulting needed to step up to the challenge, adopt the product and skill up to fully support this".

A start date of January 2009 was assumed under Oracle, but it seems it wasn't until later, possibly Spring that year, that OCS actually signed on the dotted line and began work.

According to the December minutes, the unnamed OCS person had been keen to ensure "correct resources" were available. OCS also said challenges existed primarily around the algorithm to automatically make offers based on locally defined criteria.

SLP seems designed to integrate with the UCAS program, to help students find course places. The university described it to The Reg as something for the institution's 20,000 students and 6,500 staff to help plan lectures, handle student records, and enter marks and grades.

Asked under FOI why OCS has gone, the university claimed this would likely prove harmful to the public interest. It defined public interest in this context as its potential inability to conduct negotiations and establishing and developing relationships with third parties.

Oracle also declined to comment.

Despite this latest change, the university told The Reg it expected "the majority" of SLP to go live by late summer 2011 in keeping with its original plans. ®

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