Waikato Uni ends admin search

Waikato University has ended a search begun more than three years ago for a replacement student administration system.

Waikato University has ended a search begun more than three years ago for a replacement student administration system.

And after coming close to choosing PeopleSoft for the job 18 months ago, it has finally settled on locally developed Jasper, a system jointly developed by Christchurch-based Aoraki and that city’s polytechnic.

Waikato’s information and technical services director, Derek Postlewaight, says the PeopleSoft choice foundered when he checked reference sites.

“We decided the product was not mature enough; it was too risky for us.” The university then put its plans on hold for six months so software makers could “go through another version release”.

When the search was revived, PeopleSoft was still on the short list, joined by Australian-developed system Callista and Jasper, which was “vapourware” when the university first began looking.

Postlewaight concedes the choice of Jasper, which is based on the Jade object-orientated language and database, isn’t without risks. While it has been implemented at Christchurch, Manukau and Otago polytechnics, no other university uses it. And he says its object-oriented nature was also considered a risk factor.

“There are no risk-free decisions,” Postlewaight says, “including choosing to do nothing.”

Aoraki has the task of adding the necessary functionality for Jasper to work in a university environment. That includes the ability to handle stricter university entry requirements and to cope with higher degree processing.

While Waikato is taking it on faith that Aoraki can provide all the additional functionality — estimated by Postlewaight to represent a 15% to 20% code change — he says there is a benefit.

“As first university we get a fair whack of influence in how the university functionality develops.”

Waikato will begin implementing the system next month, aiming for it to be running in time for enrolments for the 2003 academic year. Online enrolment will be available from day one.

Jasper will mean the end of the road for SEARS, a Waikato-developed system which was taken up by several other institutions, including the University of Auckland. Auckland has since successfully implemented PeopleSoft. The deal, which is awaiting finalisation of minor contractual details, is costing the university a seven-figure sum, which Postlewaight won’t disclose. “It’s a significant investment for the institution.”

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