Software giant Oracle has signed up more than 40 United Kingdom institutions in an academic site licence scheme which supporters say offers flexibility and saves money. The scheme also helps students to acquire an industry qualification as part of their degree course.
The Oracle Academic Initiative was launched in the United States in 1997 and operates in France, Germany and Russia. The company says it has invested $1.6 million (Pounds 1 million) in the scheme. For a one-off payment of a few hundred pounds, plus annual support fees, institutions get a blanket licence to use the Oracle database and tools institution-wide, on all platforms, for instructional purposes.
Carl Dudley, principal lecturer in computing at Staffordshire University and director of the UK and European Oracle user groups, said: "The package is said to be equivalent to around Pounds 25,000 of software at commercial prices but I suspect that to us it is worth more than that."
For Staffordshire, one of the attractions is the flexibility of the licence, which would allow the university to switch from OpenVMS to another platform without paying a further licence fee.
Oracle appears to have been more successful with academic site licensing in the UK than Microsoft, which has tried to sell its Campus Agreement site licence, only to find that many institutions are determined to stay with volume-based licensing.
Oracle's commercial customers have complained loudly about its volume-based licences, particularly when these involve counting the number of users on the web.
Participating institutions can use part or all of Oracle's courseware in their courses. Students wishing to add an Oracle certificate to their degree must pay to take a computerised test at a third party company's premises.