Universities ready to ditch SEARS

SEARS, the notorious student administration system used by several education institutions in New Zealand, could all but disappear from the education landscape over the next year or two. Last year Auckland University began to roll out PeopleSoft's student administration system, to ultimately replace SEARS. Now Waikato University, which originally developed the system, has drawn up a shortlist of three products to replace SEARS.

SEARS, the notorious student administration system used by several education institutions in New Zealand, could all but disappear from the education landscape over the next year or two.

SEARS (student enrolment and records system) drew student criticism a couple of years ago at Auckland University when it crashed during enrolment week, causing long delays. Last year Auckland University began to roll out PeopleSoft's student administration system, intending to implement it over the next two years, to ultimately replace SEARS.

Now Waikato University has drawn up a shortlist of three products to replace SEARS. Waikato University originally developed the system, but each of the organisations which bought it developed it in different ways, says the leader of the project to replace SEARS at Waikato, Derek Postlewaight.

He says Waikato University did not suffer from Auckland's problems, because the system was used differently in Auckland.

Postlewaight says the reason Waikato is replacing SEARS is because, after 10 years, the technology is aging.

"It doesn't readily support the way the university wants to do its business over the next 10 to 15 years, and the changes forced on us by the educational environment."

The three vendors on Waikato's shortlist are Banner 2000 from SCT in the US; People-Soft and Student One from Technology One in Australia.

Users of Banner 2000 include the University of Montana and the Canberra Institute of Technology. PeopleSoft is used at a range of universities worldwide and Tech-continuing with SEARS, or moving to a different system.

McCormack says AIT is likely to have made a decision by the end of this year.

The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand is also evaluating a possible move away from SEARS. Systems development manager Dr Ian Kemp says over the year it has used SEARS, the processes and customer base at the polytechnic have changed, and until now, changes have been accommodated by making modifications to the SEARS database and application.

He says the polytechnic's drive nowadays is to provide more flexible and customised products and services for a diverse range of "customers" and that takes it further away from the original process model which SEARS was designed to support.

A decision on whether to stay with SEARS will be partly based on whether there is an alternative that can support the polytechnic's specific needs.

In the meantime, the polytechnic continues to do development work on the system, to meet changing business needs and changes to external reporting requirements.

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