“Students aren’t always experts in technology” (News, 26 January), but neither, it seems, are those in management and IT departments. When universities complain that they lack the financial resources for students’ IT provision and demand more such resources, one has to ask: why are you not seeking an alternative solution?
Regarding IT, the ethical onus on UK higher education is to promote optional approaches, in the realm of OpenSource. First, there is the issue of cost – and managing cost. Second is the need to advocate sector-based innovation rather than buying in solutions. Third is the moral argument for developing OpenSource as an alternative to big IT companies. Fourth is the issue of tax avoidance. It is presumed that all the big IT companies are involved in minimising their contributions to the UK tax yield. Shouldn’t (part) publicly funded institutions shun such corporate providers?
There is sufficient advance with Linux (and BSD) for routine educational deployment. Have any faculty, for example, trialled HE-targeted operating systems such as UberStudent? Adopting any Linux distribution for higher education purposes can be easily facilitated. LibreOffice is now mature enough for any undergraduate roll-out. There are equivalent ready-to-use packages for all the applications currently bought in, which are also free (allowing further development) and free (available at no cost), thus addressing the fiscal as well as the moral issue.
Higher education should be embracing this moral approach as well as managing its financial resources instead of demanding more from the “consumer”.