A preview of UCISA15 Annual Conference and Exhibition, the premier IT event for universities and colleges

By Chris Sexton, Director of CiCS, University of Sheffield 

The IT environment has been changing rapidly over the last few years – advances in mobile technology, social media, big data, consumerisation and, more recently, the internet of things are providing both opportunities and challenges for us all. UCISA15 will provide a unique opportunity for CIOs and senior IT professionals to listen to an exciting range of keynote speakers, network with peers and talk to suppliers about how they can take advantage of these new developments and meet the challenges.

We are returning this year to historic Edinburgh, and the Conference will take place in the EICC, the award-winning centre of excellence for world class conferences in the heart of the city. Our opening keynote is from Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive of UCAS, who will provide an insight into the HE landscape and how UCAS is accelerating its digital transformation to become the single destination for information and services for progression in learning. Mary will provide an overview of the key drivers for change and how technology can enable UCAS’ vision.

As we move more services into the cloud, we are increasingly more dependent on our internet connections than before, and last year a number of universities lost their internet link for several hours. A case study of what happened and, more importantly, what we can learn, will be presented from the two sides involved. Tim Kidd, Executive Director for Jisc Technologies will give the service provider’s view and Chris Sexton, Director of IT at the University of Sheffield will give the IT director’s perspective. I’m sure this will provide a valuable learning experience! 

Emer Coleman, respected journalist and founder of DSRPTN Digital and Technology Consultancy will talk about threats to incumbents, new business models and the nature of ‘We, The Web Kids’. This is the generation who grew up on the web and who have very different expectations of institutions. Very relevant to this is the whole area of how students learn, and how we take advantage of learning technologies, so we are pleased to welcome Jeff Haywood, VP of Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh who will bring us up to date with trends and future developments in the field of digital education and eLearning. 

Big data is a hot topic, and one organisation that knows all about handling data is HESA. We are pleased to welcome Alison Allden, its Chief Executive, who will explore the future value proposition for HE data in the light of the business case being prepared for changing the approach to the collection of HE data, within the context of the future information landscape (reference HEDIIP). What is the return on the investment in information provision? What are the opportunities for open and shared data? Who needs it and who wants it? And where does it come from. 

We will hear about why, after almost 28 years in education with over five as IT Director at Sheffield Hallam University, did Aline Hayes move to local government to take on the same type of role? What would it be like going in to do the same job but in a different kind of organisation with a different kind of customer base and culture? She’ll be talking about the differences, similarities and whether she’d recommend being a public sector CIO, based on her experiences so far. 

From identity theft and fraud to corporate hacking attacks, cybersecurity has never been more important. There are more security risks to come as cyber criminals become more sophisticated, and although traditional cybercrime such as password fraud will still be widespread, larger-scale attacks to gain access to information including our research data will also increase. We are very pleased to have Charlie McMurdie, Senior Cyber Crime Adviser for PwC and previously head of the Metropolitan Police’s central e-crime unit, come to talk to us on this important topic. 

The continuing rise of smartphone ownership and the expanding popularity of tablet devices are creating new opportunities for the way we teach, research and work, as well as challenges for the way we architect our infrastructure and services. Nick Jones is a VP and Distinguished Analyst for Gartner with a vast amount of knowledge about mobile technology trends and future developments which he will share with us on the final morning. 

Also on the final morning we have LJ Rich, presenter, writer, producer, and musician, best known for her role covering social media trends and gadgets on BBC News’ Click programme. 

We are very excited that our closing keynote will be delivered by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians, winning 16 medals including 11 gold, and 13 World Championships. In 2010, she was created a life peer in recognition of her achievements, and I know she will give an inspiring talk.

As well the exceptional line up of keynote speakers, there will be the opportunity to hear showcase sessions from our suppliers and how they have worked with us to provide solutions to our top issues. University colleagues will demonstrate innovative developments and solutions through the showcases and formal poster sessions. The biggest IT supplier exhibition in the sector will be open for two full days, giving delegates the opportunity to talk to over 90 vendors about their latest products and services. The excellent social programme, (which includes a chance to channel your inner goth), as well as a formal dinner in the amazing surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland, together with excellent networking opportunities with colleagues, means that this a conference you can’t afford to miss. It is the premier event for HE IT professionals. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chairing the organising committee, and look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh.


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Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

Join our expert panel as we look at what blended learning means in 2022 and how universities can meet the needs of ever more diverse student expectations.