OK, it hardly makes me Mystic Meg to have predicted more leaks last week. I was going to make a joke about more Leaks than a Welsh Nationalist Conference, but I imagine someone would get offended. So I shan’t say that
Friday’s Leak was about the University sector. HE has always been an odd sector to sell to (and those of you who have will share a knowing look) but it has proved to be a core adopter of new technologies as well as a strong market for those prepared to make the effort. And if you have ever had the pleasure of a quick tour of the University of Manchester, you will know they are rightly proud of their work http://www.digital60.org , so let’s face it, they’ve probably earned the right to buy Microsoft Office at a discounted rate.
However, last week’s announcements all mean that we may be about to see a seismic shift in the way HE operates. The reduction in tax-funding (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11550619) is likely to mean three things:
1. Increase in full-fee paying foreign students numbers
2. Increase in tuition fees for English and Welsh students
3. Increase in research work taken on by universities from the private sector
This third element is the bit that grabs my immediate interest. Traditionally, Academia has been at the relaxed end of the scale in its attitude to security. Filtering websites has traditionally been a no-no, scuppered by cries of ‘Academic Freedom’. This also used to happen when you tried to block spam for them. No, I was told, the staff won’t stand having their email tampered with. That was until (for example), a major institution in London found its post-grad staff was getting on average 500 spam mails per person per day. There are only so many Nigerian 419’s and offers from young Russian ladies someone will tolerate in the interest of academic freedom, and so now they block spam.
However, the engagement with the private sector is a game changer. No private sector firm is going to tolerate shoddy handling of material. Worse still, if the HE institution is handling personal data (Data Processor vs Data Custodian again folks). And we’ve already seen a rise in interest here from the sector. Let’s do this the Open University way:
Drop in cash = rise in private sector interest = got to be a bit more careful = need to know the law = huge increase in security requirements.
I fully expect to see encryption FINALLY taking off properly in HE in the very near future. And about time too.