Why UK Universities should invest in Technology

Posted July 03, 2014 by
Computer with button for United Kingdom

Computer with button for United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Income generated from “International students” contributes significantly to the UK’s universities. International university student market contributes to the UK economy in numerous direct and indirect ways. In 2013, they supported over £80bn ($110bn) of UK economic output, which is roughly one third of the total contribution of the aviation sector to UK GDP, and generated over £25bn ($40bn) of Gross Value Added (GVA).

Over the past few years, educational institutions have gone through harsh times, the challenging financial environment and increased international competition require innovative approaches to ensure that the UK remains a recognized leader in world-class teaching, training and researches.

In a recent research report which was aimed to examine the opinion of investment in technology in universities of UK, just 31% of universities showed a negative view, a significant improvement compared with 55% in 2013. This more positive outlook from the universities could be due to the realization of the benefits of using technology.

The following are my personal views on how investment and the use of technology would benefit UK higher education institutions;

Benefits of using Technology in UK universities

Being innovative is essential, as it can help to show prospective and current students that the university is serious when it comes to staying at the top, thereby helping increase revenue from course fees. It can also widen participation by reaching out to students in non-traditional areas or distant foreign country learners for instance; University of Oxford provides more than 80 different online programs, through which individuals can log in from their homes or workplaces.

There is no doubt that smart technology use can enhance students’ experience of university. Whether that is keeping in touch with a tutor after working hours or logging on to an online learning system, for example London School of Economics have online systems where students are enabled to view their missed out lectures and notes.

Additionally, technology can drive income from business, too. I am aware that the vast majority of the work that goes on between universities and their business and community partners is heavily dependent on collaboration through email, telephone or web-tools, resources and real life meetings. However, developing a listening zone for feedbacks, ideas and partner-making, can act as a marketplace for business referrals and contacts. Building an online community takes time, but can be a valuable way to add value to what is happening every day between local entrepreneurs and academics.

Moreover, the higher education is entering an unregulated market and we are bound to see increased competition between universities of UK. Many individual groups are opening a number of universities and affiliated colleges. The use of technology in shared services can achieve cost saving by providing economies of scale. For example, Global University Systems groups which own 5 different colleges have saved £33.2m ($53.2m) over its five years of operation.

I sometimes feel that the word technology sounds expensive. But the simplest technology can have a really big impact. We are all aware, for example, of the potential for energy saving light bulbs to help us cut our electricity bills at home, and the same principle can be applied to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) on an institution-wide scale. According to one report, a funded project at Cardiff University was conducted to make better use of storage solutions for files that are not being accessed every day. It is a simple technology, but when put into full production in Cardiff, it is anticipated that this will save 10kW of energy per year, which at current prices is around £10,000 ($25.000) per annum.

Having said that, there is no doubt that investing in new ICT facilities can be costly. As universities try to prioritize, what should they do if buying a new system becomes unavoidable? However, there are different IT solution companies which enable an institution to save money through their efficient procurement. By wisely investing in technology, I believe a university can save costs, generate revenue and share the burden of spending. UK higher institutions should continue to take calculated risks with technology if they want to support local and international students and researchers with their bright ideas.

Author Bio: Alan Harvey is a Master’s Degree holder with vast working experience in the field of computer science. He also writes new innovative articles on education. Further, he is also a seasoned expert author at 1click dissertation who serves students in completing their projects.

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