Thursday sees a meeting of the Advisory Group set up to oversee the implementation of the MIAP (Managing Information Across Partners) programme in the higher education sector. I won’t be able to attend but I have some concerns which I have passed on through the chair of the group and will share here. The programme is intended to streamline the collection, handling and sharing of information on learning and achievement between individual learners and education and training organisations. It encompasses all sectors, dealing with records of students from aged 14 and above. The aim is to introduce a range of services to facilitate the sharing of data.
Some aspects of the programme have already been implemented – the unique learner number, learner registration service and UK Register of Learning Providers being three examples. The implementation has not really impacted on the higher education sector thus far with the result that the implementation team are left with the task of trying to introduce something to a sector which is not prepared. This is a problem. There is a history of initiatives borne out of central Government foundering through a lack of engagement with a sector and a lack of adequate financial planning. And to my mind this initiative, although well meaning, falls into this category.
The programme was borne out of the DfES. The implementation of MIAP has been phased, building on the Schools and FE sectors towards the higher education sector. But the difference is that the HE sector is rather more independent. Consequently it has proved difficult to demonstrate the benefits of a central initiative to a sector where each institution is a separate legal entity and have their own goals and missions.
One item of the meeting tomorrow considers the strategic outline business case for the MIAP implementation in the sector. The case is not strong. An outline business case will always struggle in my view if there is a lack of demonstrable evidence of the benefits the programme may deliver. One of the key benefits MIAP seeks to achieve is more effective data sharing but there is little evidence in the outline paper that this has been achieved in other sectors. This may be due to the emphasis on an outline business case. However there has not been any consideration of the cost to the HE sector of implementing effective interfaces with HE based systems. Without these costs it is difficult to carry out a true cost benefit analysis and so will be difficult to assess the potential benefits of the MIAP programme as a whole.
I support the idea of a phased implementation. However it will be difficult to prepare a full business case for wider adoption of the programme if the full costs are not known. The situation is further complicated by budget constraints on the programme. The challenge will be to manage the implementation of a pilot programme that will demonstrate the benefits to the sector but without incurring a significant development cost. I have my doubts whether or not that will be achievable.