University challenge

The Gulf University for Science and Technology envisioned a modern, completely IT-enabled campus for its students, and set out to create it. Now it claims it is reaping the returns before the project is even finished.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  September 9, 2007

Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) was the first private university to be established in Kuwait and is currently constructing the first purpose-built private university campus.

Up until now, the university has been occupying two schools that it had converted for the students' use, but decided that it needed more space to conduct new programmes and to provide its students with state-of-the-art facilities.

The major challenge was that most of the technology we were adopting was cutting edge and it was the first time it was deployed in the region.

In building the new campus, the Information, Communication and Computer Technologies committee of the university decided to implement a "smart, collaborative & adaptive educational campus".

"Basically we're putting a complete infrastructure in there that includes technology from Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. We've adopted something called a Cisco Connected Real Estate as an architecture, which IT-enables the entire campus. So it connects building management, air conditioning, lighting, security, surveillance, all of this is connected on top of an IP network, this is in addition to the traditional data, voice and video," says Samir Alamari, information and technology director.

"IBM provide the desktops and servers and all the datacentre equipment. Microsoft and Oracle provide the enterprise layer and operating systems, email exchange servers and so on. And from Oracle, we've got the PeopleSoft student registration system and e-business suite," he adds.

The committee, made up of technology specialists, academics and adminstrators, decided to embark on the ambitious project in order to have a more student-centric campus.

"The driver was the student body itself. As a university we have a lot of so-called e-services - typically the students apply online, register for classes online, take classes online, pay online, they make use of e-books at the library, they take e-learning courses online, they do e-collaboration, they attend digi-conferences with counterparts in the USA - so these were the drivers. We had to equip the university with a top-notch infrastructure as related to networks and make sure it was implemented by a professional partner," Alamari continues.

A lot of research went into choosing the vendors for the project. The committee surveyed student needs to see what the IT department would need to provide. GUST representatives also visited various modern universities and smart campus sites from Singapore, to the UK and all the way to the United States. Ultimately, GUST chose its vendors based on its prior experience with them and their experience with GUST's affiliate university in the US, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

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