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COVID-19, acquisitions and IT Mergers: what to do when you need a back-up IT team?

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Preparing for a new academic year is always a challenging time for IT teams. However, for New College of Humanities (NCH) in London, summer 2020 brought new challenges entirely.  

The IT team was faced with the integration of IT systems after its acquisition by Northeastern University, in the US, while at the same time coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This was no easy feat. The team had limited time to turn around vital changes, during an already busy period.  

What’s more, if done correctly, the work had the potential to immediately extend and enrich student experiences. Help was required!   

Enabling access to content across borders  

A key part of the work required was to provide seamless access to content across borders, thanks to the international merger.  

Staff and students in London already had single sign-on (SSO) access to Jisc Collections materials in the UK. Yet, with the right integration, they could also benefit from seamless access to library services and other materials in the US. 

This would allow the institution and its students to take full advantage of the merger. However, it required specialist resources to help deliver the benefits.

Cost savings, content & enriched student experiences 

By integrating with Northeastern University, NCH could not only extend the richness of resources available but also save the organisation money on duplicate subscriptions. 

This was another key driver to ensure that work could be completed in a timely fashion, despite competing priorities.

The challenge was to offer this access in good time for the new term in autumn 2020, while keeping resources free for other, bigger projects.

Not least – an updated virtual learning environment (VLE) and student information system. 

If only there was a back-up IT team  

Facing a tight deadline and complex integration, NCH decided to use a ‘retained expertise’ service from Jisc’s Trust and Identity consultants. 

NCH had confidence in Jisc because they had already been using Jisc for the Shibboleth server and journal access. Along with an eduroam implementation. 

The retainer gave NCH access to Jisc’s expertise for a specific number of hours in the year – so it could call upon Jisc if it needed to.  

Retained expertise: an insurance policy for IT

For the IT team, using Jisc’s retained expertise was a cost-effective way to access the specialists it needed. 

“The key point about the retained expertise is that it works out more cost-effective…

If we need them, we know they’re contracted and on hand, rather than having to obtain a quote and get it signed off when time’s against us. Having it there is almost like an insurance policy.” 

“We didn’t need to second-guess anything they recommended or advised. That’s one of the key points of going with Jisc – we had the trust there, because they had already set up systems beforehand.” 

Zain Rhemtulla, support manager at Pioneer Solutions, NCH’s primary IT partner. 

Crucially, for students, it meant reliable access to digital content. This was particularly key due to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also helped NCH to future-proof remote access. 

“Getting hard copies of information is slower because everything is quarantined,” Shimon Agur, VLE and library resources manager at NCH, explains.

To learn more, you can read the full case study here 

In need of your own backup IT team? Want to find out more about how Jisc’s trust and identity consultancy could benefit your institution? Please contact your account manager, visit the website or get in touch via  

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