Two fictitious universities in the UK are to amalgamate. One, Smellytown University, is mostly a teaching

institution, and has never grown beyond a few thousand undergraduates and a few hundred postgraduate students. Until
a few years ago it was a college of technology, with a high percentage of part time students. It regularly features
towards the bottom end of the university league tables. Student recruitment and retention are major problems. Most of
the students come from within a radius of 20 miles. Smellytown is a small, run-down town, most of whose major
employers have closed as its traditional, poorly-paid industries collapsed. The town is known as one of the least
desirable places in which to live, in the entire country.
The dire financial position of Smellytown University is the main reason for the amalgamation. In the recent past, the
University has embarked on large building projects which have resulted in shoddy, frequently under-occupied and in
some cases uncompleted, buildings, and this has been a major drain on finance. Another expensive venture which has
not worked out right has been the move to internet-based distance learning. The University’s IT department clearly
did not have the skills for this sort of development, and a combination of ignorance and financial constraints led to
the development of a very unreliable system with very limited functionality. This system runs on servers in a
developing country; the contract, which has four years left to run, seemed a financially attractive deal but in
reality, a very poor service is received. Consequently, some students (some of whom, being internet based, are
located overseas) are suing the University for the poor service provided. As a result of this state of affairs, and
also because of a de-motivating lack of investment in up to date IT kit, the IT Department has a high staff turnover,
and is currently 40% understaffed. The IT Manager, who was the senior IT executive in the institution, is working
through his resignation notice period. The University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Edward Greedyguts, has been forced
out of office by the Board of Governors, because of many allegations of bullying and because of extravagant and
unjustified use of his University-provided credit card. Professor James Niceguy, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, has been
appointed as acting Vice Chancellor, but is having a lot of time off work currently, because of his wife’s serious
illness.
Smellytown University will be amalgamating with the University of Camford, about forty miles away. Nobody at Camford
wanted the amalgamation, but pressure was exerted upon Camford by the government, which made vague noises about
possible funding cuts for Camford if co-operation was not forthcoming. The University of Camford is about a hundred
years old, and is a very prestigious institution, consistently ranked in the top dozen universities in the UK, with
an excellent research and teaching record across the board. Its courses cover a wide range of science and humanities
disciplines. It is three times the size of Smellytown University, although that is still relatively small compared
with many other prestigious universities. It is financially sound, has an attractive, small, semi-rural campus, and
has up to date IT, and skilled IT personnel. It has recently appointed a new IT director, John Movethings, from
industry. Camford’s vice chancellor, Sir Benjamin Brainbox, had some reservations about Movethings’s appointment,
because of his lack of experience of management in higher education – but Sir Benjamin was reluctantly persuaded by
some of the university governors on the appointment panel that Camford needed shaking up and that an infusion of new
blood was desirable.
The University of Camford has traditionally prided itself on face to face contact with students and, although it
ensures that its students and staff have excellent IT facilities, it does not see distance learning as part of its
mission. However, Sir Benjamin has indicated vaguely to Movethings that the university will have to move with the
times and consider distance learning because that “seems to be what the government wants”.
Sir Benjamin has asked Movethings to produce an IS/IT strategy for the new combined institution, which will be known
as the University of Camford, with Smellytown University being renamed as University of Camford at Smellytown.

Discuss the difficulties that might be encountered with regard to both IS/IT strategic planning in general and in
this specific scenario, and discuss how those problems might be alleviated.

 

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