Uni to replace ill-starred SEARS system

Auckland University is to roll out a suite of student administration applications that will ultimately replace the ill-starred student enrolment and records system SEARS. SEARS drew much flak from students when it crashed repeatedly several years ago. The university will install PeopleSoft's student administration system incrementally over the next three years, says IT director Phil Venville.

Auckland University is to roll out a suite of student administration applications that will ultimately replace the ill-starred student enrolment and records system SEARS.

SEARS drew much flak from students when it crashed repeatedly several years ago.

At the end of 1996, the university chose PeopleSoft for its new financials and human resources software, to replace Dun & Bradstreet's Millennium financials and the university's in-house HR and payroll system. The core financials went live in November last year and in December work started on the HR project, which is due to go live this October.

Payroll will be implemented early next year.

The university will install PeopleSoft's student administration system incrementally over the next three years, says IT director Phil Venville. He says the university's intention was to redesign its administrative and management processes and was looking for IT systems to support this.

"Ultimately it will mean replacing SEARS but not for another two to three years. We're doing a scoping exercise on what to roll out first."

Apart from admissions and enrolments, the system will cover functions such as course counselling, student financial matters, grant management, student health, time tables and room bookings.

Venville says when the university was considering PeopleSoft in mid-1996, the software company was developing a higher education strategy.

"They have now developed a product suite for higher education which was launched toward the end of last year. That was a significant factor in our decision to go with PeopleSoft. We liked the financials anyway, but they also had a strong understanding of higher education, and issues such as managing research contracts and funding."

It will be implemented on the same platform as the financials and HR - a three-tier client-server network with a Sequent Numa-Q symmetrical multiprocessing machine at the back end and NT servers in the middle.

Auckland is the first university in the Asia-Pacific region to choose PeopleSoft for student administration, and the University of New South Wales has also bought it.

Both are members of a charter advisory group which will advise PeopleSoft on localising the system for use in Australia and New Zealand.

The university is also rolling out an electronic purchasing system. Venville says day-to-day purchasing is currently paper-based.

"We want to do it on the Web," he says. "We're reviewing our purchasing processes at the moment. In some areas, such as suppliers to the libraries [international publishers], most of the transactions are already conducted through EDI. We will be looking at EDI over the Internet further down the track."

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