|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2011)|
|Formation||1 April 1993|
|Type||Non-departmental public body|
|Purpose/focus||To support post-16 and higher education, and research, by providing leadership in the use of ICT|
|Headquarters||Bristol and London|
|Region served||United Kingdom|
|Chief executive||Martyn Harrow|
Jisc (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, and still commonly referred to as JISC) is a United Kingdom non-departmental public body whose role is to support post-16 and higher education, and research, by providing leadership in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in learning, teaching, research and administration. It is funded by all the UK post-16 and higher education funding councils.
JISC was established on 1 April 1993 under the terms of letters of guidance from the Secretaries of State to the newly established Higher Education Funding Councils for England, Scotland and Wales, inviting them to establish a Joint Committee to deal with networking and specialist information services. JISC was to provide national vision and leadership for the benefit of the entire Higher Education sector. The organisation inherited the functions of the Information Systems Committee (ISC) and the Computer Board, which had served universities. An initial challenge was to support a much larger community of institutions, including the ex-polytechnics and higher education colleges.
Four sub-committees initially supporting the JISC committee: their remits covered Networking; Awareness, Liaison and Training; Electronic Information and Technology Applications activities.
In 1995, the Northern Ireland Department of Education became a full partner in JISC. The organisation expanded again in 1999 when the further education funding bodies became funding partners. This expansion prompted a restructuring and a new set of committees:
- JISC Committee for Authentication and Security (JCAS) November 1999 – January 2002. The work of this committee was taken over by JCN2 and JCIE3.
- JISC Committee for Electronic Information (JCEI) November 1999 – January 2002. The work of this committee was taken over by JCIE3 and JCCS4.
- JISC Committee for Integrated Environments for Learners (JCIEL) November 1999 – January 2002. The work of this committee was taken over by JCLT5.
- JISC Committee for Awareness, Liaison and Training (JCALT) The work of this committee was taken over by JOS6.
- JISC Committee on Networking (JCN2).
The expansion also raised wider concerns about JISC's governance, and Professor Sir Brian Follett was appointed to carry out an independent enquiry. His report, published in November 2000, concluded that "JISC is perceived as a UK success story, providing a network of world-class standard and a range of excellent services. Importantly, it evolves continuously and is an excellent example of collaboration between the community and the funding bodies". However, Follett made various recommendations for reform, most of which were accepted by the funding bodies.
A new structure was therefore put in place from December 2001, consisting of a JISC Board, advised by a Steering committee made up of senior officers from each funding body. Six sub-committees fell under two main heads: strategy and policy committees, which aim to ensure that the needs of specific communities are met (in the fields of research, learning and teaching, and management); and functional committees, concentrating on specific areas of work (networking, information environment, and content acquisition).
In January 2005, the Freedom of Information Act came into full effect, giving the public a general right to access all types of recorded information held by public bodies. JISC took an important lead in raising the Act’s profile in the academic community and published its own FOI Publication Scheme.
In the spring of 2005, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) announced a reduction in its funding contribution to JISC. The LSC and JISC Executive negotiated a package of services that the LSC would continue to contribute towards in the future.
Also in 2005, a number of strategies and policies for UK Higher and Further Education were published, reaffirming the importance of ICT: JISC was seen as taking an important role in supporting and implementing these strategies.
In the same year, JISC signed agreements with several international partners:
- SURF Foundation in the Netherlands, cementing the considerable areas of co-operation between the two organisations;
- Australian Department for Education, Science and Training (DEST) supporting the e-Framework initiative which aims to develop a service oriented approach to the development and integration of IT systems;
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Germany), Denmark’s Electronic Research Library (DEFF) and SURF to create the Knowledge exchange which aims to increase the return on investment by the individual organisations in ICT infrastructure, services and projects.
Under the Government Spending Review 2004, JISC was awarded additional funding of £81 million for the period April 2006 to March 2009, and was able to launch a range of new programmes to support the work of the higher education and research community. Funding for SuperJANET5 was provided by all JISC's funding partners. Other activities were funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales.
A review of JISC's work, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England under the chairmanship of Professor Sir Alan Wilson, was published in February 2011. One of the principal findings of the review was that there is no comparable body to JISC within the UK, and internationally its reputation is outstanding as a strategic leader and partner. The Review concluded that, "JISC is an invaluable national resource which has evolved in response to increasing demands over 20 years". However, the Review also recommended that, due to the breadth and complexity of JISC's activity, its structure, processes, projects, programmes and governance need to be simplified and reshaped: "[i]n an era of financial constraint, it is necessary to refocus activities around clearer priorities, and to ensure JISC operates with a sustainable financial model".1
Professor Sir Ron Cooke, then recently retired as Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, was appointed Chair of JISC in 2004, and served until 2008. He was succeeded by Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, who was appointed with effect from 1 January 2009. Current head since February 2012 is Martyn Harrow.
JISC is an advisory committee to the funding councils, made up of a number of sub-committees, each with a different focus:
- JISC Organisational Support committee (JOS)
- JISC Infrastructure and Resources committee (JIR)
- JISC Learning and Teaching committee (JLT)
- JISC Support of Research committee (JSR)
Members of the JISC Board and sub-committees are individuals from the education sector who bring a practical knowledge of how ICT is used within institutions, what benefits its innovative use brings, and the issues to be addressed to support the future use of ICT. The JISC Executive supports the Board and sub-committees.
JISC has six strategic objectives, and eight strategic themes.2
- Innovative and sustainable ICT infrastructure, services and practice that support institutions in meeting their mission;
- Promoting the development, uptake and effective use of ICT to support learning;
- Promoting the development, uptake and effective use of ICT to support research;
- Promoting the development, uptake and effective use of ICT to support the management of institutions;
- Developing and implementing a programme to support institutions’ engagement with the wider community;
- Continuing to improve its own working practices.
- e-Learning — improves the quality of learning
- e-Research — technologies used in research
- e-Resources — digital information and e-content
- e-Administration — improves administrative processes
- Access management — secure authentication and authorisation
- Network — UK research and education network
- Information environment — convenient access to resources
- Business and community engagement — knowledge transfer
JISC promotes the effective use of ICT across non-compulsory education and research.3 This requires services and guidance to be provided to education institutions, across the range of their activities. As of 2009, most services are now grouped under an umbrella organisation, JISC Advance.4
Three kinds of service are funded:
- Advisory services to help institutions select the best approach or product where choice and independent advice tailored to the community is important;
- Production services, where a standard infrastructure is required or clear economies of scale and value for money can be maximised;
- Development services to test the validity of novel approaches and applications, especially where this avoids costly repetition.
JISC supports the development of innovative uses of ICT helping the education and research communities to exploit the full potential of information technologies.5 Its activities are focused on areas that individual educational institutions would not be able, through lack of resources, to tackle alone. The aim of funding development projects within institutions is to enable those taking part to engage in "action research", sharing their experiences across the communities.
JISC aims to deliver a high quality collection of electronic resources, through its own Digitisation Programme, and by licencing content from commercial and other publishers.6 It negotiates consortium packages, enabling the education and research communities to benefit from the latest online resources at cost-effective rates. Some of these resources are subsidised by JISC.
JISC works in formal partnership with a range of organisations, both in the UK and internationally, in terms of policy collaboration, development programmes, and the delivery of production and advisory services.7 In the UK, JISC also seeks opportunities for collaboration beyond these communities, with schools, public libraries, and adult and community learning bodies.
- AccessApps – collection of portable open source software released by JISC RSC Scotland North&south
- CETIS - Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability and Standards
- Higher Education Funding Council for England
- Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
- JISC Digitisation Programme
- JISC infoNet
- JISC Collections
- Scottish Funding Council
- HEFCE. Feb 2011. Review of the Joint Information Systems Committee Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Strategy 2007–2009 Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Services Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Advance Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Programmes Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Collections Accessed: 31 March 2012
- JISC Partnerships Accessed: 31 March 2012