EDUCAUSE: benefiting from US experience

SWITCH attended the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in the US. Licensing works in much the same way there as it does here.

Text: Immo Noack, published on 10.11.2016

Almost 8,000 attendees from 47 countries, around 520 items on the agenda – including talks, panel discussions and seminars – and roughly 275 exhibitors: these are the headline figures from this year's EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, which took place from 25 to 28 October in Anaheim, California. EDUCAUSE is the largest community of IT experts working for higher education institutions in the US.

Its major conference is of interest to SWITCHprocure because it offers an insight into the latest developments and trends among US universities. These could become significant for Switzerland in the near future.
Discussions with colleagues from the US, particularly members of the EDUCAUSE Software Licensing Constituent Group, proved highly fruitful. Licensing managers in the US face similar challenges to those in the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) – and they are very helpful towards others when it comes to sharing practical experience and specific ideas for solutions.

Here is an overview of the key takeaways from the conference:

Academic procurement organisation

In the US, various organisations take care of negotiating terms for framework agreements on behalf of universities. This is understandable, given the sheer size of the country and the fact that requirements differ from state to state. However, some universities are big enough and rich enough to negotiate contracts and solutions themselves. One of the leading procurement organisations is called Internet2. It also runs the high-speed research and education network in the US and is especially active in cloud computing.


When a new service is needed, most IT managers in the US start by looking into whether it can be sourced from the cloud. In other respects, however, the procurement process is barely any different than with “conventional” services. That said, our US colleagues do stress that exit and changeover strategies have to be thought through and contractually agreed from the very beginning because external providers usually seek to tie clients to their services. Data protection and storage are also important topics for them in connection with the cloud. In general, it can be said that there is probably not a single university in the US that does not use any cloud services. The most frequently cited example is software as a service (SaaS).


It is clear here that US universities see themselves confronted with challenges not unlike those in the German-speaking countries. Discussions are centred on four main points: legal issues, licence content, pricing and licence management. One problem that was identified is the fact that not all providers are aware of universities' needs, wishes and means. The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is also of interest to providers in this respect because it gives them a chance to learn about universities' problems at first hand.

SWITCHprocure will continue to foster close contact with the members of the EDUCAUSE Software Licensing Constituent Group. Its intensive sharing of information is of great value to the German-speaking countries as well.

Full agenda of the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference
Information on Internet2
EDUCAUSE Software Licensing Constituent Group
About the author
Immo   Noack

Immo Noack

Immo Noack has been in charge of the SWITCH Procurement Team since November 2012. Prior to that, he held posts at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and on the Neptun project, among others. He originally graduated in Electrical Engineering.

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