The FE sector is starting to see the impact of the budget cuts that were imposed for the year 2011 – 2012, while according to statistics from UCAS, the number of applications from English students to attend university has declined by around nine per cent compared to the previous year.

For FE establishments, this is a double-edged sword – the drop in school leavers going to university should represent more potential students that wish to take part in FE courses and vocational work. However, it also puts more strain on IT systems and resources for supporting these students.

The adage over the past few years across public sector IT has been to “do more with less” and this continues to be the mantra for the foreseeable future. The main consideration therefore has to be around how colleges can use IT to support service delivery more effectively, as well as how these IT networks can be managed at lower cost to the organisation. Systems management is therefore a key point for the future.

Keeping IT up to date is a challenge. All FE students will require at least some access to IT assets, from occasional use of desktops and laptops for students on vocational courses to those that require full suites of digital resources for creative projects or coursework. Behind all these devices is an IT team that has to manage the network, keeping these endpoints updated and secure.

Around 80 per cent of IT budgets are dedicated to [the] bread and butter work”

This ability to ‘keep the lights on’ involves day-to-day administration work such as patching applications, installing updates and checking that machines are all secure. According to IT analyst firm Gartner, around 80 per cent of IT budgets are dedicated to this bread and butter work, covering license fees, staff time and general maintenance. Any activity that can reduce the time spent on managing systems is therefore a good candidate for consideration when it comes to cutting costs.

Looking at how you manage desktops from a power perspective is a good idea. For many colleges, they will have at least one ICT suite as well as desktops available for students to use outside formal lessons and in communal areas like libraries.

Depending on the college, these desktops could be on all the time in preparation for students. If this is the case, the likelihood is that they are then idle overnight while still consuming power, which represents a significant cost in just power consumption.

There are two potential routes to take here. The first is to prepare a general policy for users to adhere to around turning off machines when they are not in use.

The second alternative is to implement a power management solution that automatically powers down machines when they are not in use. While it would cost money to implement this, the cost savings that can be achieved can be assured.

Further education organisations will undoubtedly come under more pressure this year, as student numbers are expected to rise while budgets remain either static or get cut. However, there are opportunities to continue developing how IT assets are delivered and managed so that teaching services – and ultimately, student support – does not suffer because of these changes.

Seann Gardiner
EMEA Sales Leader, Dell