Learning curve

Mathew Boice, general manager for education specialist SunGard Higher Education EMEA talks to ACN about how Middle Eastern schools and universities are pushing the boundaries of enterprise technology.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 23, 2008

Mathew Boice, general manager for education specialist SunGard Higher Education EMEA talks to ACN about how Middle Eastern schools and universities are pushing the boundaries of enterprise technology.

What kinds of infrastructure and processes are Middle East schools, colleges and universities currently implementing?

In terms of our experience here, we've got probably a couple of key things that we hear consistently from clients. They take it as read that they're going to need to adopt strong administrative processes. Many of them are growing quite quickly.

Increasingly, we’re seeing institutions and governments trying to improve the transparency of information, try to answer questions like how well are we doing, are we hitting our goals and are the students hitting theirs? That sounds really easy to answer but in fact it isn’t, unless you’ve got a good information architecture.

One of their concerns is that they don't want to have to recruit a greater number of administrators to deal with an ever increasing number of students. That's a key driver there to ensure efficient administrative processes.

What I mean by that is not having too much paper, processes that can be understood by the students and so on. There is an active interest around how you create an online institution and how do you help faculty, students and staff collaborate together. That's a big area of interest.

The other major point relates to performance. Increasingly, we're seeing institutions and governments trying to improve the transparency of information to answer questions like how well are we doing, are we achieving our goals and are the students reaching theirs.

That sounds really easy to answer but in fact it isn't, unless you've got a good information architecture. To provide a couple of examples in the UAE - we've got the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research specifically working on a data warehousing project.

We've got institutions like University of Al Ain, which is putting in place the administrative systems, portals and related IT infrastructure to tabulate this information properly.

Implementations can be quite difficult to plan for in terms of duration - does this hold true in the educational sector as well?

For institutions that are just starting out, they have one big advantage and that is that they don't have face legacy issues. Putting in place the basic back-office and administrative systems tends to be driven by how long the processes take to work around the cycle.

For instance, you go through the cycle of the student inquiry, admission process, registration, grading, graduation and so on - it does take a little while for them to see all those processes. We would ordinarily expect that a mature institution would take 15-18 months with as little as two or three months for a new institution.

For portal projects, we tend to be able to achieve  quicker wins for customers, because you're not having to educate people about changing business or administrative processes. The projects tend to focus on organising content and technical work.

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