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23 June 2011

Cloud services for education and research projects and partners announced

HEFCE and JISC are moving forward in delivering cloud-based services for UK education and research.

A 12.5 million fund was announced in February that aims to help universities and colleges deliver better value for money by working together more effectively (Note 1). HEFCE and JISC now confirm the projects and partners appointed to deliver the two parts of this work: a national cloud infrastructure and supporting services.

JANET(UK) will deliver the national brokerage to aid procurement of cloud services between higher education institutions and commercial suppliers, and Eduserv will provide a pilot cloud infrastructure for HEIs. Other partners include De Montfort, Exeter, Edinburgh, Kent, Liverpool John Moores, Oxford, Leicester, Southampton and Sunderland Universities (see Note 2 for a full list of partners).

So that colleges and universities can gain the most benefit from this new cloud-based infrastructure, four new services will be developed to drive its adoption:

  • A new specialist team set up by JISC Advance to provide support for procuring and implementing administrative systems and services.
  • A shared service to help universities manage the administration of their research operations, from research proposal through to project completion.
  • A service to support the secure distribution of graduation documents and transcripts for the benefit of students and prospective employers.
  • A service to support libraries in the administration of their electronic resources, which will include the management of their licensing and subscription of electronic journals.

David Sweeney, HEFCE Director Research, Innovation and Skills, explains the value this suite of work will have once complete:

'In the current economic climate all education organisations are looking for further ways to work together, share resources and reduce costs. This programme of work will provide data management and storage services, plus a suite of tools to help universities and colleges, researchers and administrators work more effectively across the research management lifecycle. This will reduce duplication and increase the efficiency of administrative and research processes.'

David Utting, JISC Director of Service Relationships, commented:

'Cloud-based services have the potential to bring enormous efficiencies and benefits to higher education institutions and we look forward to working with them to realise these. But we acknowledge that it is vital to demonstrate to users the security and robustness of working in an education and research cloud.

'There have been a number of high-profile issues with data being stored in public clouds, which is why we are working with JANET(UK) to deliver a private higher education cloud to ensure universities can trust that their information and data will be secure.'

Further information available on the JISC web-site


  1. This 12.5 million is part of the University Modernisation Fund. For further information see 'Shared services in cloud computing to be funded by HEFCE'.

  2. Who is involved?

    The University of Exeter will lead the Research Management and Administration System (RMAS) work between the Universities of Exeter, Kent, and Sunderland to procure, develop and implement a cloud-based research management and administration system based on a need identified by earlier feasibility studies funded by HEFCE.

    De Montfort University is developing an enterprise service bus (ESB) solution to demonstrate interoperability between local and cloud systems for shared administrative applications, starting with RMAS.

    JISC Collections will manage the electronic resource management support service which builds on work by JISC and the Society of College National and University Libraries (SCONUL).

    The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) at University of Edinburgh will develop data management tools and training capability. This will support the production and implementation of data management plans for universities and their researchers to preserve data for sharing, re-use and citation.

    A consortium led by Liverpool John Moores University will develop the secure document service.

    Four projects will produce software applications which can be delivered as a service from the cloud. They will support researchers with their work and data management and comprise:

    • Leicester University is providing support for joint NHS and university research teams working with tissue samples and anonymised patient data.
    • The University of Oxford is providing a database to a wide range of researchers in the arts, humanities and other disciplines. Oxford will also provide an integrated set of tools to manage data within Life Sciences and other similar research projects. This will make it easier to submit data for longer-term storage in an appropriate standards compliant data repository.
    • The University of Southampton is providing electronic lab data management and collaborations tools.