IT Systems Strategy – The Case of Oxford University

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Type of Academic Paper – Assignment

Academic Subject – IT

Word Count – 1890 words



The United Kingdom has a rich history of providing quality higher education to students, with well-funded institutions using many resources to enrich their students. The integration of information technology into teaching has allowed universities in the UK to provide students with a technologically advanced environment to learn through continuous innovation. One such university that will be the focus of this report is Oxford University. The university is famous for being one of the oldest higher education institutes in the country. The following report will provide an overview of Oxford University. A critical response catered to the University’s top management team for taking an outsourcing strategy to improve their IT services and profiting.

Overview of Oxford University


Oxford University has been teaching in some form since 1096 and is the oldest university in the English-speaking world (Oxford 2017). According to Oxford University, there is no clear date that establishes the foundation of the institute. Still, it quickly began its intake in 1167 when King Henry II banned students from England from attending the University of Paris. Oxford University has been synonymous with controversy, with many of its scholars being involved in disputes of religious and political nature. Examples of this include John Wyclif, who campaigned for a Bible in the vernacular against the papacy’s wishes (Oxford 2017). Later on, the University became a leader in the Victorian era, with the Oxford Movement looking to invigorate the Anglican Church’s Catholic characteristics (Oxford 2017). It was only by 1878 that academic halls for women were established in the university and were admitted as full members by 1920. Since 2008, Oxford University has admitted both men and women.

Mission and Objectives

According to the university, its vision is to be recognized as an institution that delivers world-class facilities to produce world-class research, teaching, and learning. Oxford University has a range of long term aims and objectives. One of the university’s main missions is to provide education and training of outstanding quality at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The core of this can be achieved by strengthening Oxford’s research base by identifying new areas of study and research “for development and enhancement, responding to contemporary developments in both the intellectual and national environment” (Oxford 1998, 4). Each year the university sends a Strategic Plan covering its four years of operations to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Hence, the objectives of the university changed over the years. Currently, the university has outlined the following as its main objectives for 2013 to 2018;

  • Develop the university’s capacity to generate and share knowledge through the world by contributing to policy-making and economic growth.
  • Collaborating with other institutions and organizations to lead research and teaching.
  • Continue to contribute to the culture and socio-economic life of the city of Oxford and the surrounding region.
  • Ensure that no potential student is deterred from applying to a course at Oxford due to financial circumstances and difficulties.

Leadership and Management

Oxford University’s leadership and management structure are reflective of its long history. The university’s governance structure is made up of a congregation that is a sovereign body of the university. It has over 5,000 members and is responsible for approving changes to the university’s statutes and regulations, considers major policy changes, elects members to the council and other university bodies, and approves the appointment of vice-chancellors (Oxford 2017). Oxford also has a council that acts as the university’s principal executive and policy-making body. The council is responsible for the academic policy and strategic direction, administration, and the management of its property and finances (Oxford 2017).

IT Strategy Planning & IT tools at Oxford University

The current strategic plan for Oxford with regards to information technology includes enhancing its online presence. The university is planning on positioning itself to engage rapidly and effectively with digital initiatives created by its staff, students, and alumni. The purpose of investing more in digital technology is to direct people seeking knowledge about any academic study area to appropriate work carried out at Oxford. The university also proposes to develop its globally available teaching resources and collections for distance-taught students around the world and learners everywhere.

Furthermore, the university is planning on extending its network of libraries and museums to learn and engage with the available resources. Oxford is planning on digitizing access to its collections. It is also planning on increasing its public engagement on regional, national, and global scales by promoting programs of events and exhibitions of its museums, galleries, and scientific collections by using the internet, social media, and other forms of innovative modes of transmission (Oxford 2017). Lastly, the strategic plan for 2013-2018 included the “Oxford Open Access” used to enhance the university’s Oxford Research Archive (ORA) by making it a permanent and secure online archive of research materials produced by the members of Oxford University. The university is also planning to enhance all infrastructure related to research, including libraries, laboratories, museums, and information systems.

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Critical Briefing: Outsourcing and IT Outsourcing

Oxford University’s top management team is thinking of taking an outsourcing strategy in information technology, particularly for achieving its strategic plan 2013-2018. Oxford’s IT infrastructure is linked with its Estates Services who take care of infrastructure-related issues. The university is thinking of enhancing its computing facilities to support research through data management and developing and deploying collaborative working tools (Oxford 2017). The option of outsourcing information technology could be considered critically helpful for the university.

According to Troaca and Bodislav (2012), the concept of outsourcing is a phenomenon that has taken place over the last thirty years, which includes the transfer of manufacturing activities from developed countries to countries that are in the developing process. Many like Tim Hindi believe the concept to be even older but exploded a bit after WWII since, in 1946, only 20% of value-added US goods and services were from external sources, but by 1996 it had reached 60% (Troaca and Bodislav 2012). Specifically speaking of IT outsourcing, the trend began in the 1980s but had not become a sophisticated global market (Deloitte 2013). Aalders (2001) remarks that outsourcing itself is not a new thing; companies have been going on for more than fifty years with them outsourcing advertising, legal, maintenance, and production services.

There are several types of outsourcing; however, only IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO) are analysed for the sake of this report. Business process outsourcing began in the 1990s and is characterised into two broad categories; horizontal and industry-specific. Horizontal focus on the delivery of traditional, back office support functions while industry-specific is an emerging trend that includes sector-based services (Tafti 2005). However, IT outsourcing provides application development and maintenance, voice and data network, data centre services & desktop infrastructure.

There are several advantages to pursuing outsourcing for information technology. One of the significant reasons is cost reduction and operations control (Troaca and Bodislav, 2012). If Oxford university pursues IT outsourcing, they will free up internal resources for other educational purposes for the university. The university will also be able to accelerate the benefits of reengineering. Many organisations turn to IT outsourcing with the most prominent cost-cutting, as Tafti (2005) argued. According to Robb (2000), there is a major shortage of IT professionals in developed countries like the UK and the USA, which is the fueling reason for global IT outsourcing, with Eastern Europe and India having a greater number of affordable Java and web-based applications programmers. Many tax incentives are associated with IT outsourcing for establishing global operations in their respective countries like Ireland (King 1999). According to Yang (2001), India is a dominant player because of its lower labour and operating costs but with high-quality engineers and programmers.

However, academics and individuals believe that outsourcing is a major disadvantage due to the risks and concerns associated with it. According to a report quoted by Lonsdale (1999), McIvor (2000), Harland et al. (2015), only 5% of companies surveyed had achieved significant benefits from outsourcing. Such a significant drawback is that companies and organisations focus on achieving short term benefits, lack formal outsourcing decision-making processes, including medium and long term cost-benefit analysis, and increase the complexity in the total supply network (Lonsdale 1999; Harland et al. 2015). Academics like Milward and Provan (2000) argue that outsourcing results in many jobs lost in the private sector. Baccarini et al. (2004) and Tafti (2005) argue that there are various risks with outsourcing IT related to privacy and security issues.

Big Data Risks with IT in Higher Education

Universities in the UK and other developed countries have been using Big Data and Big Data analysis for many reasons like admissions, capacity planning, and scheduling. But with Big Data, there is a need for increased security as the bigger the data is, the more criminals and hackers want to try and steal it for selling. Universities like Oxford are known for collecting different types of student data, including financial, personal, and academic information. Also, universities deal with teaching and research, which uses technology and large data sets. Much of the information that is stored is highly sensitive. This causes issues when data is breached and universities are affected by laws and regulations that impact information security. There is also the risk of controlling and managing the usage environment since everyone on campus uses different devices to access university resources (Jin et al., 2015).


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