IT Jobs in Universities and Higher Education

The modern university has seen many changes and developments in the last 20 years and technology has certainly played a huge role throughout that time.

Like any company or organisation, a university heavily relies on IT and often has a dedicated team of technical specialists to help run and maintain the system infrastructure and advanced network.  As higher education becomes increasingly popular, so does the need for added support and investment to keep up with the demand of new students.

So what has changed in the last 15 -20 years? Some of the most recent technological development includes a number of online services such as Blackboard, which has helped teachers and lecturers easily connect to their students and have a central hub to post news, updates, grades and more.

Other tools such as the plagiarism prevention service, Turnitin, has become the preferred submission tool for students to upload their essays and dissertations to. Not only does it provide a receipt of proof that it’s been handed in but it scans an entire database of documents across the world to ensure the written document is original and not copied from elsewhere.

Technology can become evident just walking into a university campus. Student ID’s that connect to an online network of students are required to enter certain areas and Wi-Fi is readily available in almost all buildings. Libraries have become one of the most central points of innovation, providing new and intuitive ways of obtaining books and media from all over the world that’s powered by intricate systems to easily monitor borrowing and returns.

The modern classroom includes interactive ‘Smart’ boards that can display online clippings of a website as well as other visual media via touch interface. Some models can even feature video conferencing to allow guest speakers from anywhere to speak to the class via Skype. The modern classroom is indeed a well-connected, technical splendour.

So with all these technical innovations occurring in the last 20 years, what is it like for the IT and technical support team who have experienced these changes whilst working at universities and college campuses?

Alan Davies, Director of IT Services at the University of South Wales talked us through his experience of the state of IT throughout the last 15-20 years. Although the IT team hasn’t increased in size since 2002, IT as a whole has certainly seen some significant changes. Some of these include:

  • Virtualisation of Hardware
  • Consumerisation of IT
  • BYOD
  • Agile developments
  • ‘Shadow IT’, people using their own IT i.e. Dropbox

Cloud storage has indeed become a revolution for students and lecturers alike with the ability to easily work on documents within any location without the need for physical devices like memory sticks or CD’s. This has given students working in groups to simultaneously work on the same document thanks to cloud storage based solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive and more.

Even though these services can be very beneficial, the increased usage from both students and lecturers has caused extra technical support for services that aren’t affiliated with the university. This is often referred to as Shadow IT, a term used to describe IT systems and services used within organisations without explicit approval from the University.

As technology continues to advance, Alan Davies believes that a lot of the big companies will begin to utilise VR/Holograms as the future of IT interaction and conferencing. Microsoft’s HoloLens device has been experimenting with full body holograms that allow people to appear and interact with others in a remote location.

He also believes the continuous work on machine learning and ‘assistant’ technology (i.e. Siri, Google Now and Cortana) could play an important part in supporting higher education students. Plus, with handheld devices becoming more powerful and the added benefit of higher speed networks (5G networks will offer fibre speed networking) it could allow this to become very common and useful for students and lecturers.

So, because of the popularity of higher education and the addition of all these technological changes, there has been an increasing demand for IT jobs in universities and higher education.

As expected, cyber security is an upmost priority for universities in order to keep student’s personal data and information protected from cyber criminals and other threats. Other roles universities look to invest in include jobs in IT support, network administration and also project management.