Tearoff of Nottingham: University to lose chunk of IT dept to outsourcing

Cos that's always gone really well...

Exclusive The University of Nottingham has announced it will outsource some of its IT operations in a long-awaited shakeup of the department.

Last week, the body told staff it was aiming for a new operating model, with a blend model of in-house and partnered provision.

According to the University of Nottingham University and College Union (UCU), the move will potentially affect as many 125 operational staff across the entire department, including IT service desk support, student support, campus A/V IT, Windows and Linux administrators.

A spokesman for the UK university confirmed it is in the early stages of detailing a new IT operating model.

"We are at least a year away from making any changes, so it is too early to speculate on their impact, and staff at all levels will continue to be involved in the final design of the model."

He added: "We will do everything we can to minimise the impact to our existing teams, and in any future model, the University will want to retain in-house expertise to provide strategy, leadership, governance, domain knowledge and data safeguards for IT services."

Outsourcing discussions at the university have been under way for some time. According to UCU, it first brought auditor KPMG to review its IT function in 2017 (PDF).

Last year, KPMG outlined a number of options for the academic body, including a move to "partially outsource information services".

However, the union said it "does not believe that outsourcing internal jobs will result in better service... especially since between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of IS staff may be outsourced according to the KPMG report."

It added: "IT outsourcing in UK Higher Education Institutions is rare for a reason. IT staff in HE institutions often work and innovate beyond what is usually expected, and take pride in 'going the extra mile'."

It also said that information services presently caters to a large array of research at the uni, including a High Performance Computing (HPC) platform and specialist server and application platforms with specific expertise, and is flexible with researcher requirements.

Some 76 per cent of respondents interviewed as part of the KPMG review felt it was important to develop and retain in-house IT skills, said UCU.

Outsourcing remains a controversial model for higher education. The University of Manchester's former director of IT, Gerry Pennell, was criticised for severely understaffing the IT services department after the institution slashed 68 jobs in 2015.

In fact, Manchester University Press had published a book entitled What a Waste: Outsourcing and how it goes wrong, at the same time Pennell's department warned 219 IT-related staff that their jobs were at risk – as noted by Private Eye.

For the financial year ended July 2018 (PDF), the university reported total income of £664m, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £58m and an operating surplus of £25m. ®

Updated at 15:21 UTC to add:

The union has been in touch to tell The Reg:

"The rest of the IS staff will be restructured and their job profiles are likely to change significantly. Along with our commitment to protecting the jobs and conditions of our members, the recent catastrophic outsourcing of 'Campus Solutions', the university's student records system, to Infosys has provided an object lesson in the dangers of outsourcing IS, including poor data quality and long, costly delays in implementation.

Despite the 'Lessons Learned' report recently published by UoN's senior management, we have no reason to believe that this wave of outsourcing will be managed any better, or is even necessary, as we have not been consulted on the review of options for this proposed restructuring, or the process for deciding on this plan."

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