Campus, capital and IT – a chapter of the 2014 Annual Report of the University of Newcastle, Australia. Includes information projects and sustainability.

Campus capital and IT

Built on a commitment to create a strong service-orientated culture, we have developed a client-focused philosophy to underpin our commitment to providing quality services to our internal and external stakeholders. In 2014 this has been achieved through the adoption of a business partnering approach and an integrated service delivery model.

We have redefined a number of administrative processes and organisational structures to improve our productivity, performance and efficiency in support of our long-term sustainability. These changes have moved the University closer to a unified physical and virtual environment supporting the attainment of excellence and innovation in education and research, the student and staff experience, and our campus physical and virtual environments.

2014 highlights

  • significant progress on the NeW Space project, with the appointment of the principal design consultant and commencement of tendering for the main works contractor
  • new and larger premises were secured in Elizabeth Street for an enhanced presence in Sydney and a fitout designed which supports the latest learning and teaching modalities
  • establishment of the Campus Services Unit to manage accommodation services, following the transfer of UoN Services to the University
  • one of the first in Australia to provide all students with free MS Office software via Student Advantage and 1TB of free cloud storage with OneDrive
  • ongoing reductions in energy and water usage which outperformed NSW, Group of Eight and Innovative Research Universities averages for energy utilisation and reduced CO2 emissions.

2014 key figures

  • 900+ additional wireless access points installed, more than doubling the capacity of the network for our 14,000 daily unique WiFi users
  • 6,500+ staff mailboxes successfully migrated from the legacy email system to UNify, a modern cloud-based service
  • 38,777 telephone calls handled by the IT Service Desk operators, of which 74 per cent were resolved at first point of contact
  • 4,000 hours of landscape and biodiversity work undertaken
  • 5,300m2 of refurbished teaching, research and office space

Strategic performance

The Campus, Capital and IT Plan strategic priorities for 2014 were:

In leveraging the outcomes of the UniForum Benchmarking Project, we implemented a review program in 2014 for key business processes and policies to identify opportunities to streamline operations and achieve efficiency gains and improved service delivery. The year also saw the commencement of administration re-profiling processes and targeted recruitment strategies to ensure structural capacity and capability to deliver NeW Directions objectives and transition to NeW Futures Strategic Plan 2016–2025.

Service Improvement Office

In July 2014 we established the Service Improvement Office to identify and achieve measurable and sustainable improvements to core business support and administrative functions. Employing both a collaborative and evidence-based approach, including strong use of UniForum benchmarking data, the Service Improvement Office has embarked on a number of University-wide improvement initiatives and will deliver the results of these initial projects in early 2015.

Through our robust master planning processes, we continued to identify infrastructure opportunities in 2014 to support the delivery of quality academic and research programs.

Major capital works and IT initiatives undertaken over the past 12 months have further enhanced the resilience, reliability, capability and responsiveness of our infrastructure in support of the business needs.

Master planning

Master planning has advanced for our three primary campuses, informed by our strategic objectives and priorities. This process has identified opportunities to reconfigure and redevelop portions of our campuses in support of enriched academic, research and student experience outcomes. We have also identified opportunities to develop areas of our campuses to support strategic business and research alliances and options for the replacement of older and less functional assets.

Infrastructure solutions

Research support systems which underwent major upgrades and/or enhancements in 2014 were:

  • Spotfire (Research Analytics) V6.5 Upgrade
  • Sympletic Elements (NURO) V4.10 Upgrade
  • InfoEd (Research Information Management) V13.804.01 Upgrade
  • Research Animal Management System 2014.

As a foundation member of Intersect Australia eResearch organisation, the University gains support in delivering its eResearch infrastructure and solutions. Intersect complements the core service offering of IT Services with eResearch infrastructure, comprising high performance computing, cloud computing, data storage and management, software engineering and training.

The past year has seen improvements to our WiFi and wired networks to provide the excellent connectivity and flexibility that is essential to a next-generation University experience. We also updated our maintenance and sustainability programs through new initiatives, processes and benchmarks.

Enhanced IT

A key achievement in 2014 was increased wireless capability through the installation of more than 900 additional wireless access points, more than doubling the capacity of the network. This has significantly increased the density and coverage of wireless across the University in support of the student experience. In addition to this, the IT Program of Works comprised more than 40 projects to enhance our teaching and learning, research, communication and administrative capabilities.

Sustainability in physical assets

The completion of the University's Strategic Asset Management Plan in 2014 provided a sustainable

approach to managing our physical assets. The Plan's driving principle is to extract ongoing value from our existing physical assets to better meet the needs of our student and staff base.

Maintenance investment

Our revised approach to infrastructure maintenance contracting was considered and endorsed by the University Council in May 2014. Following this we commenced a procurement process that will result in a head contractor model being established in 2015. Moving to this model brings value for money, time and resourcing improvements to the organisation by adopting a differentiated level of service model to our physical asset stock.

A modernisation strategy for the University's IT infrastructure systems is also under development. To achieve this goal IT Services have moved to a Hybrid- Cloud service model bringing together best-of-breed cloud services with on premise software and hardware solutions. The Blackboard learning management solution was migrated from on-premise to a managed hosting environment in December 2014.

Over the past year we responded strategically to areas of identified need and priority arising from student surveys and feedback, and worked to improve the resilience and security of the University's IT systems to enhance user confidence and business continuity.

Student survey responses

The IT 17000 Service Desk received positive responses from the 2014 Student Feedback on the University of Newcastle (SFUN) Survey, which recorded improved student satisfaction with wireless services. In 2014 Infrastructure and Facilities Services analysed student survey feedback and overlayed this information with data on our building stock to inform decision making around the prioritisation of new infrastructure investment. As a result improvements to public spaces, libraries, teaching spaces and toilet facilities were completed.

IT Security

Following data protection concerns relating to a test database which were identified in June 2014, one of our main activities during the year was the development an IT security program designed to address issues via a holistic approach to information security, supported by external expertise. This was initiated in 2014 and will continue into 2015. We also established a dedicated team of IT professionals to monitor and improve our information security environment, as part of our commitment to providing a secure system environment to support the ongoing teaching, research and operational functions of the organisation.

Campus safety

During 2014 consultation forums were established to ensure that the delivery of security services is responsive to the needs of our campus community. Extensive consultation was also undertaken for the roll out of our CCTV system and Policy on the Callaghan Campus. The system has been carefully designed to focus on areas of possible security risk and is aimed at enhancing the prevention, detection and investigation of security issues that may affect our staff, students and visitors.

Significant work occurred in 2014 to develop the Emergency Management and Critical Incident processes and responses, with new Emergency Plans and decision-making tools being implemented. A strong focus has been on working with external agencies such as NSW Fire and Rescue, and NSW Police to put in place practical and evidence-based processes for large multi-agency incidents, including bushfire preparedness.

Looking forward

Our physical and virtual infrastructure, supported by sound financial management and a culture of service excellence and business partnering are the key enablers to support the delivery of world-class education and research. Within this context and with an emphasis on continuous improvement, a snapshot of the Campus, Capital and IT key priorities for 2015 includes:

  • the implementation of our resources data management system, which will enable the central electronic collection and management of all energy and utilities data across all facilities
  • the development of a five year IT Strategic Plan that supports the University's strategic objectives and the delivery of world-class education and research
  • progressing critical new campus infrastructure developments, including planning for a new Bio-resources Facility, Creative Industries and Engineering and Science precinct
  • the development of a Retail Masterplan to support the delivery of goods and services to staff and students
  • the planning and delivery of enhancements to the public domain on each of our campuses to improve their amenity as vibrant and engaging environments
  • the development of sustainable transport plans to support the movement of staff and students to, from and between our campuses while reducing reliance on private motor vehicles and car parking.