IT directors at Australian and New Zealand universities have sought financial relief from their technology suppliers as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis eats into revenues.
In an open letter, the peak body for the higher education sector’s technology chiefs thanked many vendors that had already provided free software licenses when social distancing measures were first put into place.
However, new modelling that outlines the extent of the financial hit from the crisis has pushed the Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) to ask for further “assistance and consideration”.
Universities Australia estimates the sector could lose up to $4.6 billion in revenue this year, while Kearney Consulting estimates the blow from the loss of international students could reduce revenue by up to $9 billion in 2020.
Ongoing revenue losses as local and international markets continue to suffer could potentially reach 20 percent of current levels, with recovery takint until at least 2024, CAUDIT said.
The present challenges follow years where costs were already increasing more rapidly than revenue, CAUDIT added.
“Universities have reacted [to COVID-19] swiftly; cancelling projects, releasing contractors, reducing casual staff numbers, reducing pay (at some institutions) and considering redundancies," the open letter states.
"Universities are reviewing their positions and contracts, and have asked CAUDIT to do the same on their behalf.
“We are looking for true partners to help universities through this crisis and asking our IT vendors to assist - to help reduce our operational costs, to offer direct price relief and to contribute in any other way that may be possible.”
The plea for support from IT suppliers coincides with the release of CAUDIT’s ‘Top Ten’ report into the most significant areas of interest for the IT leaders in higher education and research.
Members of the association ranked business transformation, supporting student success and information security as the top three essential areas of interest for the third consecutive year, with security taking top spot for the first time this year.
The promotion of information security follows a number of high-profile breaches at institutions that have also increased awareness about the field among the broader student population.
“Information security practices are quickly evolving from a purely defensive ICT approach to a proactive mindset combining technology, process, and people,” the report states.
“The frequency of cyberattacks, and potential for adverse consequences, has increased with the advent of COVID-19.”
Sustainable IT practices featured on the list for the first time in 2020, with a stated goal to “develop ICT funding models sustaining core services, supporting innovation, and facilitating growth in the context of increasing demand and limited resources”.
“Enthusiasm for changes to ICT capability is commonly deeper and wider than ICT budget allocations.” the report states.
“ICT budgets must support activity that applies the institution’s digital capabilities in new ways to meet current or unanticipated needs, or deliver improved user experiences.”