Next level identity management

What are the objectives of a university with the introduction of SWITCH edu-ID? Alexandre Gachet, head of IT services at the University of Fribourg and Dominik Hof, director of corporate IT at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), discuss how the organisation is placing its focus on overarching strategic goals. This also emphasises that the SWITCH edu-ID is not merely an IT project. It is a contribution to the organisation’s future development.

Pubblicato il 02.10.2018

SWITCH: What are the key aspects of your strategy?

Alexandre Gachet: The University of Fribourg seeks to maintain and consolidate its position as a major higher education institution, renowned for its excellence, both in Switzerland and on the global stage. This means preservation of the institution’s full university status, with a broad spectrum of teaching and research activities and services. Achievement of this objective will require improved profiling in these areas to safeguard the institution’s sustainable development in scientific, environmental and economic terms.

Dominik Hof: FHNW is fulfilling its four-pillar performance mandate – education, training, practical research and development/services to support third parties – with a focus on quality and an eye towards the future. One main concern is the success of graduates on the job market, which is why FHNW always integrates social contexts into its teaching and research. Special emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary approaches to major social issues and challenges, such as an ageing population, the energy revolution and the effects of the digital transformation.

The Hochschullehre 2025 (University Teaching 2025) project will begin in autumn 2018. Its task is to place the teaching focus in the coming years on addressing these new challenges while also actively engaging with the digital transformation.

Which IT projects contribute to these key strategic aspects?

Alexandre Gachet: Steeped in tradition from its near 130-year history, the University of Fribourg strives to remain at the forefront of digital technology in its information system and IT infrastructure. The key aspects of the University’s IT strategy serve to underpin its overall strategy. These are based on seven initiatives encompassing IT governance, IT infrastructure, business informatics, scientific IT, digital education, business intelligence and IT security.

The complete overhaul of the information system Campus management is the flagship IT programme of the past few years and the main vehicle of the University’s digital strategy. It aims to offer members of the university community a more seamless and personalised digital experience in compliance with legal requirements and data protection.

Dominik Hof: As it stands, nearly all departments need to possess their own core IT competencies, and these must continue to be offered locally from within these departments. The central Corporate IT department focuses on providing services that are needed across all departments and offers the specified services as an exclusive, universal service provider. The slogan ‘Everything is going digital: WE make IT possible’ also reflects how the central IT department hopes to make its services the first choice for users.

Corporate IT’s current working strategy encompasses five key areas of focus: the first four involve IT resources and processes affecting the workplace, efficiency improvements along the entire process chain, the provision of self-service solutions and complementing all of this with individual customer support. The fifth area of focus – digitalisation in teaching – is at the same time the one most closely related to the Hochschullehre 2025 project.

In terms of identity management processes, how will this transform the role of central IT services at your University?

Alexandre Gachet: Identity management is key to achievement of several of the Campus management programme’s objectives: optimised system interconnectivity, streamlined use of resources, simplified processes, personalised information for stakeholders and improved user satisfaction. It acts as an ‘enabler’ in the University’s digital strategy, which is helping to bring about an evolution in the institutional profile of the IT Services department (DIT). In just a few years, DIT has transformed from an operating body running IT infrastructure into a strategic partner that contributes to the development and modernisation of the university’s core mission.

Dominik Hof: Since FHNW was founded as a university of applied sciences, identity management has revolved around highly centralised processes. With the introduction of the SWITCH edu-ID, FHNW is simplifying processes while also improving support for lifelong learning by shifting its focus to users and decoupling the identity from time-limited roles at universities.

What is SWITCH edu-ID’s role in this?

Alexandre Gachet: If identity management is a key principle of the Campus management programme, SWITCH edu-ID is a tool to make it happen, in particular for access to services outside the University’s institutional purview. The SWITCH edu-ID’s user focus is completely in step with the personalised digital experience that the University wants to offer its students, researchers and partners. SWITCH edu-ID is a central element of an ecosystem approach.

Dominik Hof: In terms of future investments, FHNW believes that there are advantages to integrating further applications at the level of the SWITCH edu-ID and that this will benefit FHNW without requiring much effort on its part. As a university of applied sciences as well as a university of teacher education, the integration of the Federation of Schools (FIDES project of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education – EDK), which is currently in development, is important. The integration of the SwissID may have a significant impact on applications across multiple sectors.

What is the timeframe for upgrading the identity management system and introducing the SWITCH edu-ID at your University?

Alexandre Gachet: The new Campus management system is now an everyday reality for all the institution’s students and staff, both in the administrative field and the academic and faculty domain. Work on integration of SWITCH edu-ID is underway. It will be active across the entire information system no later than the start of the spring semester 2020.

Dominik Hof: Plans for adopting the SWITCH edu-ID have been drawn up as part of a project in collaboration with SWITCH, and the first applications have already been implemented. The SWITCH edu-ID has already simplified the enrolment process for students and offers authorised parties from outside FHNW secure access to library resources. The implementation for existing customers will start in mid-2019, with completion planned for the end of 2019.


Dr. Alexandre Gachet

Head of IT Services
University of Fribourg



Dominik Hof

Director of Corporate IT
University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)


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