“Putting customers at the heart of what we do: it’s a commitment that many organisations are making, from e-commerce to education.”
~ Robert Haymon-Collins, Executive director customer experience – Jisc
A few weeks ago I went to the Jisc RSC Scotland annual conference in Glasgow, I’ve been trying to get to this conference for years now, but due to other commitments that always seemed to get in the way, this was the first year I was able to attend. Colleagues have always spoken very highly about the conference and it certainly lived up to expectations. It was really inspiring to see such a diverse group of people coming together from across Scottish Further and Higher education to share examples of innovative education practice taking place in colleges and universities right across the country today. One of the highlights of the conference is always the iTech awards and you only need to look at the wide range of entries this year to see the breadth of education technology innovation across the sector. You also don’t need to look far to see the critical role that Jisc RSC Scotland play in supporting education technology innovation across Scottish education. Indeed for many colleagues Jisc RSC Scotland are Jisc’s real presence north of the border.
Consequently Jisc’s recent announcement (Towards a new-look customer service function for Jisc) that it intends to
‘transform our front of house operations, initially including the current network of regional support centres‘
rings all sorts of alarm bells. ‘Front of house service’ seems like an odd way to describe a service as central and critical to the sector as Jisc RSC Scotland. However it could be that I am not sufficiently au fait with the new customer focused discourse that frames this announcement.
Talk of ‘bringing together customer services’, ‘a unified Jisc presence’ and a ‘core customer service team’ does rather concern me though as it rather suggest the centralisation of Jisc services. Jisc RSC Scotland’s team of specialist Advisors have an irreplaceable breadth and depth of experience of the unique character and requirements of Scottish education and any loss or disruption to the services they provide would be a major blow to the sector, particularly at a time when further education is reconsolidating after a period of major funding cuts and regional restructuring.
Such changes could also have a huge impact on the development of open education practice in Scotland as Jisc RSC Scotland have been tireless supporters and promoters of open education through their Open Badges in Scottish Education Group, their CC licensed iTech case studies and their partnership with the Open Scotland initiative.
It’s not entirely clear from the announcement how these changes will affect Jisc RSC Scotland and, to be fair, the blog post does stress that Jisc will enter a consultation process before new roles are recruited in the autumn. I sincerely hope that Jisc will consult widely with their ‘customers’ throughout the Scottish higher and further education sector and that the Scottish Funding Council will work together with Jisc to ensure that the invaluable service provided by Jisc RSC Scotland is maintained for the benefit of Scottish Higher and Further education as a whole.