UK Further Education professionals just breathed a collective sigh of relief at the results of what had been predicted to be one of the most pivotal Government Comprehensive Spending Reviews in recent memory. 

There had been signals to FE that their budgets would be in the firing line, with cuts between 25-40% suggested, and with Chancellor George Osborne looking to save the Treasury £20 billion. But, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP warned against speculative criticism, and in the end FE budgets have been protected until the end of this Parliament. Thank goodness.

But relief will be somewhat stinted, and many people working in FE may still be nervous with the fate of nearly 40 colleges still in question from education-and-training area reviews. The objective of such reviews is to look into the suitability of mergers to help cut costs in infrastructure and administration. Of course, significant administrative changes don’t necessarily equate to cost savings, and they can have major challenges and costs of their own. There is no doubt that a spotlight has been shone upon UK FE, and leaders across the sector need to respond.

As an organisation that works closely with Further Education – and as Microsoft’s Worldwide Education Partner of the Year 2015 – we have to ask ourselves, “how can we help?”

Given our technology is operating in 20% of UK education, we need to look at what we can do to help FE leaders overcome the challenges of administration. We need to think about the ways are we helping already, and the ways we can help more. We need to understand the specific challenges that FE Colleges are likely to face in the coming months and years, and how well are we aligned to supporting those?

Key issues

Reducing costs

While the IAM Cloud platform isn’t free, its huge benefit:price ratio means it helps to reduce costs far in excess of its actual price.

  1. We found our Cloud Drive Mapper feature can be used as a fully viable replacement for network storage servers, which can cost mid-large size colleges 10s to 100s of thousands of pounds per year. Cloud Drive Mapper also uses drive-mapping technology – not synchronisation – as a method of file access. This increases security and privacy, which are important concerns in data protection, but it also has the added benefit of enabling Colleges to support and procure lower-specification computers, which can save further cost.
  2. IAM Cloud’s identity management feature can remove a lot of manual processes and errors, and remove a major burden from IT personnel.
  3. IAM Cloud’s single sign on feature means that organisations can support cloud applications like Office 365, without the need for additional servers like Dirsync, ADFS & load balancers, which require capital equipment, and valuable in-house expertise or consultant services to manage and maintain.
  4. IAM Cloud’s self-service password reset feature can substantially reduce demand on IT helpdesks. Typically, up to 60% of IT helpdesk activity is from forgotten passwords.
  5. IAM Cloud’s integration with HR systems like WorkDay and student information systems like CAPITA SIMS, combined with IAM Cloud’s automated processes, means that even more time-consuming manual effort can be removed. A single record in an information system can lead to the full provisioning of IT accounts, with almost no manual intervention needed.
  6. Depending on the leanness of IT already present in a college, we’ve found that an investment in IAM Cloud can result in a saving of 10-50x that amount.

Increasing resilience and agility

When change is imminent, it’s important to maximize organisational agility and responsiveness, while increasing resilience to combat any challenges that may arise. The IAM Cloud platform can help in a number of ways.

  1. IAM Cloud allows for rapid successful IT deployment and change, which may become important in restructures and strategic shifts.
  2. IAM Cloud has no hardware infrastructure, which means that physical logistical changes are significantly easier to achieve.
  3. IAM Cloud provides off-site authentication, which means that should there be any server failure or issues on-premises, there will be no interruption to cloud services like Office 365 – so email, cloud storage and applications like Word remain active.
  4. IAM Cloud increases security, and simplifies IT Management, which means that changes are easier to administer and less likely to go wrong.

Delivering quality education

Regardless of the outcome of the Spending Review and Education Area Reviews, delivering educational excellence is at the heart of the mission of FE institutions. IT plays an important role in the curriculum, both as a facilitator in learning and directly in enhancing employability. IAM Cloud helps FE colleges deliver world-class IT, simply and affordably.

  1. IAM Cloud helps colleges support Office 365 for Education, which includes amazing collaborative classroom tools like OneNote and Skype.
  2. IAM Cloud helps colleges provide access to a wide variety of leading applications, including VLEs like Blackbaud, Canvas and Moodle, and library systems and collections like Ex Libris and JSTOR, among many other educational applications and services.
  3. IAM Cloud’s enterprise single sign on and self-service password functionality give students a great experience when accessing their IT. With IAM Cloud, colleges can offer seamless access to digital services, any time, any where and on any device – while ensuring control over security and other organisational policies are upheld.

Migration & mergers

Should the outcome of an Area Review result in the migration or merger of FE institutions, entire new challenges are presented. IT migrations are notoriously difficult, and expensive. IAM Cloud uses the scalability of the cloud to facilitate the merging, diverging and migration of IT. IAM Cloud supports…

  1. IAM Cloud supports Active Directory migration, merging and divergence – and intelligently uses its identity management system to make migrating an unlimited number of implementations both simple and secure.
  2. IAM Cloud supports email migration for Microsoft and Google email services.

We strongly believe that IAM Cloud can make a significant positive impact on Further Education institutions, but we are always looking for ways to do more. If you have any thoughts about how we can help you, or if you’re interested in any of our services, please get in touch.

About Leon

Leon is a Director at IAM Cloud with nearly 10 years of experience working in and with the education sector. Leon is a major advocate for the role of education in society, health and economic growth.